Tag Archives: quilting

Randomly, at the very end of the year

As usual, I stay away from too much reflection (remorse?) of the past year, and resolution-making for the new year.

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Yep, that just about sums things up… #2017bestnine

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I have a few things in mind with a fairly strong commitment to finish or frog, several small house projects that still need to be wrapped up (I’m still looking at you, you bastard threshold!), but things will start growing again, and it will all be a busy blur once more.

I haven’t been sewing much recently except for a few minor clothing repairs/alterations. For the past couple of years I’ve also been drawn to hand-pieced things, but the bigger reality is that up until yesterday all but one (the one I keep ready for repairs) of my sewing machines were on time-outs which usually magically fixes them, but my luck finally ran out on that practice. (I’ve also had the on again, off again issue of work space, but that’s usually my own messy fault, and/or access issues for home repair.)

So though I intended on working on the long-ignored quilt above yesterday, I set up one machine, sewed three inches, got a snarling bobbin tangle, got out another and got another thready mess, got out another and forgot it needed a serious greasing instead of a little oil and also couldn’t find the spool pin I just found again for it, thought about checking out another, but it was two floors up and in a closet, and didn’t bother getting out the other two that need to be re-wired.

So I took a nap.

But it was a quick one, and I spent the next hour or two cleaning, oiling, and futzing with the goddamn tension to get it to behave. It’s still not great, but it’s mostly holding two pieces of fabric together now.

I hope to finish the quilt? It has a few weird memories from the last time I spend a good chunk of time on it, I really hate the quilting part of quilts – at least big ones, and it doesn’t really go with our decor so to speak, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it (provided the machines behave) and as an amalgam of stuff, it will easier to store and of course use, as a finished thing. So we’ll see.

And I don’t really need to buy any yarn again this year – I’m still spinning the last of a big wad of Jacob – and perhaps finally got a good chain-plying action going on. The only new yarn I might shop around for is reflective stuff.

I knit up this hat out of Red Heart for N. It’s not warm enough, it felt gross (though soft) to knit, and I’m dubious the wear will make it worthwhile for hand work. But he walks the dog in the dawn dark and we walk on country roads, so we need things with a ramped up visibility factor. I also have a spool of the reflective filament that can be held with any yarn too, but it was a little pricey I think, and/or the yarn was cheaper- I can’t remember now, and I think I was concerned about yarn dominance and loosing the thread in something wooly, so then I need to experiment with using it in duplicate stitch or as embroidery… something along those lines. And I’m also playing with some ideas for using it on dog accessories.

Has anyone else worked with this stuff?

And then I’m still finding myself drawn to miniature stuff – I’m oddly mildly traumatized by home renovations/repairs these days, so maybe it’s a psychological thing in that I  actually want to feel in control and spend almost nothing (but time) on a renovation project, even if it is just my childhood dollhouse to get over it?

Eh, we’ll see on that one too –

Happy New Year!

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Ahoy, more scraps!

These days are busy.

The blizzard (was that just last week?) got things off track a bit.

I’ve been selling off a lot of my old stuff online – both vintage old and cool – and my old still-usable discards. It’s kind of a drag, but more is leaving the house than is coming in, and I’ve got a little more cash. It’s weird though, the more recent stuff is selling better than the vintage things – kinda sad.

Another thing that is slightly sad is the craft supply thrift store place in my town closed down – I learned just a day after they’d had the last weekend clear-out sale too. I certainly didn’t help keep them in business – I think I spent $18 there once, but mostly it was about $6 every couple of months on a wad of fabric scraps and old sewing notions.

I didn’t get this there, but it was the kind of thing I’d find – a bag full of someone’s potential quilt pieces, or quilt scraps.

I found this at one of our regular antique mall in the sticks haunts – a gallon sized bag of a decent stack of pieces/scraps.

The fabric could date to WWII, or maybe a bit later, but probably not much into the ’60s? I’m not sure, but it “feels” ’40s to me.

Some days I think they’re the negative space pieces cut away from something else.

Some days I think the two curved pieces are an undersized sail and jib for the striped boat.

Some days I think about selling them.

What little swelling of patriotism I’ve ever had is utterly deflated now, so the mere juxtaposition of red, white, and blue makes me shudder.

But I “feel” that they’re older and their other pieces were lovingly made to comfort someone going away, or being welcomed home, or for a baby who might never meet its father (or less possibly, mother). Or maybe these are the pieces and the project was futile – the person never came home?

Perhaps the next step is to search for WWII era patchwork patterns and see if something makes sense.

Or just sell them.

Probably for a least a little more than $2.50.

 

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A mostly 1970s quilt…

It’s hard not to call this ramble something like “that ’70s quilt” or “talkin’ bout my generation” (even though that was the ’60s and has nothing to do with fiber) – something overstated but understood, jingly and annoying but common and somewhat comfortable…

But that somewhat encapsulates my feeling of the whole decade – it causes me equal parts discomfort and nostalgia.

I hated the 1970s because I hated polyester, stale cigarette smoke, musky perfumes, mustaches, “me,” disco (I kinda like that now), cheesy love songs, feathered hair, giant cars (El Caminos excepted), tube socks (I kinda like those now), my bible-beating public elementary school, my ignorant small town, plastic toys, Vietnam-damaged fathers and uncles (I didn’t have one, but most did), high-waisted clothes, acrylic, popular colors of pus, piss, and poo, the stench of leaded gasoline, dusty scents from too much unwashed macrame and houseplants and pillows and tapestries, halter tops on women and girls, too much wood, terrible architecture…

But I loved typewriters, lower-waisted clothes, back to earth movements, interpretations of 1920s and ’30s revivals, funk, longer hair, afros, craft revivals, interesting food, fantastical fiber creations, and a bunch of other stuff – mostly wrapped up in nature and creativity and the lovely analog life…

It sort of all started with this fabric. It might be older than the ’70s, but the calico and earthy colors reminded me of rustic quilts in mountain cabins comforting those who played banjos, wore patched corduroy, and brewed dandelion wine. I suppose that is more Appalachian than the ’70s, but since my parents moved us to the country to get back to the earth then, and I had a musical family who partook (and still partakes) in old time music and dance, my association is personal, though part of a definitive ’70s cultural movement.

1970s baking fabric

The fabric came from an antique mall (I think), and it’s a massive amount – some 10 or 13 yards, and it had to have been priced at $15 or less, so I bought it without a specific quilt in mind, but with the thinking that any cheap large amounts of cotton fabric = quilt backs. At the time, I also had a cousin who lived in an old house and participated in old time life whose wedding was a few months away, and I had grand ideas of making a massive rustic quilt for the couple. But that thought was short-lived – I never thought about what the top would be, and our own old house didn’t yet have a kitchen and sewing machines were packed away, and I essentially had stopped making quilts for anyone, or any bed-sized ones at all…

Fast forward a few months ago when I was unpacking and organizing my fabric stash, I found that fabric again, and also pulled out the tiny bit of my mother’s leftover stash that I’ve keep separate for fear of forgetting what was from my own past and what was from someone else’s.

1970s home fabric

Some of these are are a little earlier too, and I remember the top blue covering a chair seat likely done in the ’60s… and I vaguely recall the black or navy used for a piece of clothing for me. A bit more of this sort of calico found its way into the treetop of this piece.

Birdscene

And my old bonnet – which still fits…

(Remember the ’70s aslo had that patchworked and bebonneted character of Holly Hobbie and the resurgence of Sunbonnet Sue – I’m not sure which inspired my mother to sew a long dress with matching bonnet and white eyelet pinafore for a xmas outfit for me…)

1970s bonnet

But the fabric is awesome – baby chicks, scarecrows, kittens… I don’t want to cut this up though, so bonnet/artifact it will stay.

1970s bonnet detail

I also kept a terribly sewn dress that I remembered hating to wear because the neck or the empire waist, or something about it was too damn tight, and it was a baby style sized up to my girl frame, though I was forced to wear it around the person who gave it to me, and clearly it is faded so I must have been strapped into the thing often – or – the fabric was lousy and faded on the clothesline quickly. I think the fabric is a Liberty of London? And I have no idea why I kept it except for evidence in a child torture suit? Because I like brown?

(As an aside, I don’t get the hullabaloo about Liberty – sure, I appreciate the historic factor, but where is the fabric made? England isn’t known for its cotton crop, so it isn’t really made there, just printed. And though some of the patterns are lovely, some are a bit too romantic and twee for me, and some are just plain frumpy and if not in the know, would appear to be something that came from the big box…)

So I have no qualms about cutting it up – and I had it stored with an unfinished felted bag with pinks and browns, so it still could become a lining.

1970s dress detail

And finally, I remembered an aunt’s homemade skirt from that time – a mountain dwelling dancer whom I looked up to – I don’t know why I ended up with her skirt, but I was a tall child, and it fit me with the aid of a safety pin and I remember wearing several times when I needed to look “old fashioned” for some school pageant or living history sort of thing.

It still fits, but is nearly a foot too short for being the maxi-style skirt it is supposed to be. I am very hesitant about cutting it up, though I truly want to have less in my life – perhaps I’ll consider shortening it a bit to wear as a skit again, and then have the scrap to use, or perhaps I want to make a smaller wall quilt just out of it alone….

1970s-skirt detail

Though my thinking about ’70s fabric mainly revolved around brightly colored calicos and decisively shunned other fabrics of the decade, my mind started to wonder/wander about “cheater” cloth and if I shouldn’t just get several yards of the stuff and only add my own patch to it here and there.

I found this awesome hex pattern online and snatched it up…

1970s cheater fabric

It reminded me of my old pants.

1970s pants

(I’d like to think I caught Patches the cat leaping through the air in a trick feline circus move, rather than I’m probably squeezing her, or him? to the point of torture).

But that awesome mustard fabric is more of a canvas, there’s only a yard or less, and I think I’d rather make a tote bag out of it, so my focus returned.

I looked around for some more bright vintage calicos and was rather disheartened by the prices online – I’m used to picking up second-hand fabric (at least stuff that’s less than 50 years old) for a song…

But then this stuff is now “vintage” after all – I often think the ’70s was only about 18 years ago…

1970s cut fabric

I found a good deal on some pre-cut patches – normally I hate the pre-cut stuff because I like to use every last scrap of fabric and I mourn for the jagged corners thrown away, but I wanted some variety and this fit the bill.

And then I found a few larger cuts – the one on the left has a pleasing brown background, and the one on the right has a coy bird…

1970s bird fabric

(One of my online orders reeked highly of dryer sheets or some other synthetic stench. I can appreciate the need to scent the stash to deter fiber-munching predators, but if you sell it to others, please don’t use these chemical bombs – lavender and other herby sachets and naturally scented soaps and such work just as well and don’t cause respiratory distress in others as much… Better yet, send it out once it has aired and smells of nothing at all…)

And then I dug through my regular stash and found some prints older and newer that fit in well enough – most of these are scraps and fat quarters from the craft supply thrift store (usually 4 or 5 for a dollar), or in grab bags at antique malls, so all told, I spent less than $30 on my new old acquisitions to scratch my ’70s itch – not too overboard, but still fabric in, money out, and nothing to show for it….

1970s random scraps

But I don’t really like these colors – too primary with searing reds – I like that they’re warm and happy, but I don’t want to see them every day and I don’t want them in my bedroom with its calm and soothing hues. So perhaps it was enough to just gather my thoughts a bit and collect these few more fabrics – the total lot doesn’t take up much room and I’ve yet to lay it out or calculate to know if I even have enough for a quilt – a throw size definitely, which is perhaps what I’m leaning towards if anything at all…

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What I was thinking; what was I thinking?

I dip in and out of various media for scattered amounts of time, but I probably think about sewing the most.

I feel like I’ve made hundreds of quilts, but most of those were in my mind – the reality has only been in the double digits.

I still haven’t reconciled the disconnect of quilts falling farther on the craft side of the art scale and my desire to just whip out some for practical reasons, but not fully committing the time to do so because time should be used for art or making money to live. But that doesn’t reconcile the fact that almost all of the knitting I do is practical and most decidedly pure craft since I’m often using other’s patterns. I feel at odds with much of the quilting “community” both on social media and what can be had with guilds and such locally, though I’m not much of a community person to begin with… And I could go on with my discomforts on precision and technique versus visual interest, weird bandwagons and fad fabrics, and the pacing – slow down and make slow shit versus be sure to crank things out to keep up interest…

But I’ll rest here since I don’t have much time to ponder all of this, and frankly I don’t really care – I’ve been making a few quilts that will either be finished or not, be practical or hang on a wall, and I’m sure I’ll start a few more in the meantime…

But there was a time (late 1990s) when I wanted to really study quilts, and I forgot about it until I unpacked some old sketchbooks a few months ago.

thinking-scrapbook

I specifically chose an art program for my undergrad that focused on classical art “training.” We had an obnoxious amount of drawing classes and a somewhat rigorous prescription of moving up and through various media before finally focusing on our chosen one after a couple of years of fundamentals. I roughly still feel a sense of “you have to know the rules to break the rules” about making or doing most things, but my interactions with fiber have shoved most of that in its face. I spin but I don’t know shit all about twist; I knit but still knot when I shouldn’t; I sew but I don’t understand most of what anyone is staying about various seams and stitches and grains and biases.

Okay, I do know a bit, but from trial and error rather than a slow concentrated graduating effort.

thinking-blocks

So I think it was with this in mind that I started really looking at quilts – mostly old ones, especially depression-era, since I was collecting reproduction vintage feedsack fabric at the time. I think I wanted to make a grand all hand-stitched “traditional” quilt. At the time (and still now) I’ve only made pattern-less [I guess the kids are calling them] “improvisational” quilts.

So I printed off pictures of vintage quilts up for sale on ebay and pasted them into a sketchbook.

thinking-redblocks

And checked out lots of books from the library and copied the traditional squares. I’m not sure if I was too cheap to make photocopies or I thought sketching them would help me decide if I liked them or not…

thinking-storm

And I’m pretty sure I came really close to choosing the “storm at sea” as my traditional quilting masterpiece…

But then what?

Grad school intervened? I took up knitting? I didn’t have enough of the right kinds of fabric in my stash? (I still don’t) I didn’t have the focus to start cutting out the same shape over and over and over again? I couldn’t choose the colors?

I still don’t have the focus or proper stash to execute something more traditional, but I’m thinking about it again…

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Anatomy of a hex

I’ve yammered on about my love of the hexagon shape for a bit now, and have finally put needle to cloth and started to play…

hex-green

I’m still obsessed with the hex-tile floor and passing though my old city recently, I was shocked to see more lovely old buildings ripped out and re-planted with soulless new shitboxes. All of the other lovely and unique architectural details destroyed aside, I mourn for the very likely loss of hex-tiled entrances, halls, coatrooms, mudrooms, bathrooms, and maybe even kitchens. I still dream of living in a house that was untouched by vinyl, paneling, laminate, textured paint, beige ceramic tile, and all other destructive DIY – unless it was carpeted and paneled in a way that preserved everything underneath and it would be a matter of unwrapping a lovely surprise room to room…

But  I digress…

To date, all of my fiber hexing has been via the English paper-piercing method. I ordered some pre-cut little buggers last year and was on the lookout for some plastic ones I’d seen that require basting stitches cinched up, but weren’t stocked in my area until I forgot about them. I started cutting some shapes out of mylar to try out the general idea, but got distracted and moved on.

hex-plastic

The plastic ones reappeared at the big box recently, and at a time when I had good coupons, so I finally got some thinking that I would fall in love with them and they would last forever and I was happy that they were manufactured in the USA… But sadly, I just couldn’t get them to work for me (or I’m too set in my paper-piercing ways).

The main problems were: I had to run too many basting stitches, it was fiddly to get the tension right and the corners sharp, they are too thick to finger-press the fabric, they are slick, and the whole thing took longer.

I should back up first – I’m working on a project that needs to be very portable and not require electricity (will take on a rustic vacation later this summer) and I’m making it out of old shirts that have some poly or stretch that makes the fabric harder to control. The plastic shapes did work better with rougher, stiffer quilting cotton or  good lay with a hot iron, so all hope isn’t lost for them, but they’re just now what I need right now.

(And in general, I’m usually working on pieced things on another floor from the ironing board, or on a hot day when the iron is banned.)

So I attempted to make them more usable by drilling some holes to provide better stability with a piercing method. That helped a good deal, but I was still slow in finding the drill holes with the needle, the thickness still prevented a good finger press, and they were still too slippery.

hex-drilled

So I tried to drill some bigger holes and score the surface with a variety of rasps, but that was an utter failure…

hex-fail

So finally, I just used the shape as a template on the other half of the coupon used to purchase them (and lifted from the recycling bin) and voila, success!

hex-samples

But that was the only piece of scrap card stock in the house, so I have to wait for the mail to arrive (for a few days likely) to obtain more…

hex-templates

This piece might end up into something finished, and perhaps something with a bit of meaning… but the green hexies at the top are just a doodle for now.

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In like a lion or, a fox…?

March arrived with a couple of little back to back icy storms, but it held the promise of a thaw…

blue-fox

And then we had a satisfying morning watching the neighborhood fox hunt (unsuccessfully) in the yard…

blue-shovel

Followed shortly thereafter by more f*cking snow.

So it’s back to the wintertime blues.

Quite literally – I realized much of what I’ve been working on lately is blue, which is a little odd for me…

blue-sperry

Like this Sperry sweater (I’m a little afraid it doesn’t have as much ease as I’d like, but I’m not quite far enough along to know for sure…)

blue-velvet

And this scrappy little quilt made from clothes that were both mine and not that’s much farther along than this now…

blue-stole

And finally, this big “old shale” stole out of recycled yarn.  I wanted to restock my etsy shop with some handknits like this, but I think etsy has gotten too evil for me – do you have a suggestion for a new marketplace site to use for handmade goodies?

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You should probably get that checked out…

I’m not one to worry about medical issues unless I know with absolute diagnostic certainty that I do have something to worry about.  I probably don’t fret much because I was a sickly child, or because I now have enough chronic but minor “let’s keep an eye on that” issues that I expect I’ll spend many more years partially broken down and mildly miserable until something really big comes around to finish things off.

And then the other day I felt something strange on my ear.  I picked at it for a bit and it didn’t come off.  My heart started to race a little and I began counting the times my ears got pustulous sunburns, and wondering if I’d get an extra elfin-looking prosthesis just for shits and giggles.  I got up to examine it in the mirror and then got entirely distracted* and forgot about it for a day or two.  Then I remembered and finally got up in there with a flashlight and extra hand mirrors.

It was lumpy and hard and a strange skin tone that wasn’t quite my own.

I figured it was more likely to be some sort of ageing barnacle, so I flicked a little harder at the thing with disgust.

It came off…

I’m pretty sure it was a glob of Liquid Nails.

plaster schmear

(My home improvement crust usually looks more like this).

But I do sometimes worry about the day when I can’t do much with my hands.  I’m already unable to knit, sew, or type for more than an hour or two at a time, and I have to take frequent breaks due to various wrist and finger and hand barks and whines.  So I need do as much fiddly-fingered work as I can now.

 hex-a-sketch

I’m plotting some hex quilts I’ve been thinking about for some time now.  Some may be “art” pieces that I probably won’t share, while some of the fabric sketches (quilt-a-doodle-dos?) might end up for sale.  We’ll see if my fingers can do the talking as well as the walking…

I ordered some dye-cut hexes to take the easy route.

Hexagon-tiny

I didn’t quite expect them to be this small.

I hate rulers and their confounding fractions – give me metric!

*I probably should actually worry about this.

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