Simple stripes quilt top

Simple stripes quilt top

So having realized how long it will take me to get a queen size quilt’s worth of hand stitched stars, I decided to branch out into quilting for real.

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A really long way to go…. I expect to work on this on and off over a few years.

Well, not real quilting exactly – doona/duvet/comforter covers. The reason is that I have been given several beautiful quilts already, a gorgeous green queen bed one as a wedding gift, and my aunt has made my kids many gorgeous quilts including Althea’s flower fairies one that is in her room now. However, Althea would like to use a duvet/doona/quilt instead on blankets so I thought that some nice colorful doona covers would be a good birthday gift.

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Being a complete beginner I decided on precut jelly rolls as an affordable way to get a gradient of colours and a manageable place to start.

The pattern I’m using as inspiration is the Line Art Quilt or Skinny Strips Quilt. The Skinny Strips quilt free pattern is a starting point, but the size is too small for a standard single/twin duvet cover and I did a few things differently.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Ingredients – Artisan Batiks Roll up (40 strips each 2.5″ wide and actually not all exactly 44″ long), Kona Solids Jelly Roll in grey (40 2.5″x 42″ strips), Big spool of grey cotton thread.

1. I taped out my desired duvet cover size on the floor. I was working with 86″ x 64″ as I was originally planning to sew the top onto a plain Ikea duvet cover and that is the size that they are.

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2. I played with arranging the strips in a pleasing sequence. Annoyingly I found that I had to include all 40 strips to get my desired length. I would have liked to exclude the plain black strips. Also, the roll contained different numbers of each color, some had 2 others 3 so I played with the arrangement until I was happy.

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3. I labelled all the strips in numerical order.

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4. I cut each solid grey strip in half down the middle, making two shorter 2.5″ wide strips.

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5. I carefully pinned a grey strip to both ends of a colored strip, right sides together, and sewed a 1/4″ seam, then pressed the seam towards the coloured strip.

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Actually I did this in batches of three which was faster.

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6. After all the grey-colour-grey long length strips were completed I laid them all back on the floor in numerical order and arranged the offset stack design so I was happy with it. This picture shows only half the strips completed. When all were arranged they were longer than the taped duvet size because of all the seam allowances along the length of the strips.

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7.  I then used my quilting ruler to draw a line along the edge of the taped duvet size on the floor using a wash away pen.

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8. Using scissors I then cut off the strips 2″ past the blue lines. (1″ seam allowance and 1″ insurance in case I decided to make the cover slighter wider. I have found sites saying that a standard twin duvet is actually 86″ by 66″).

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9. I then batched the strips up in groups of five, ready to sew.

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10. To sew the strips together, I matched the blue lines at each end of the strip and pinned them right sides together, then sewed a 1/4″ seam and pressed the seam allowances up. I sewed strip 1 to 2, then 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5. Then I sewed the next 5, then joined groups of 10.

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11. Finally I joined my groups of 10 strips, making 40 joined strips.

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12. As you can see fro the picture above the top was not quite long enough, so I sewed some of the longer pieces of grey strips together and added them to the top and bottom of the top, framing the colored strips.

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13. Done! Here it is!

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It turns out the a US twin quilt it quite a bit bigger than an Australian single size, here is an Australian single doona cover laid over the finished top.

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We were planning on buying her a new duvet/doona/quilt/comforter anyway (seriously most annoying Australia/UK/US word divergence ever), but sadly I won’t be able to use these covers on the quilt we already have.

I’m really happy with how this turned out and am now working on a second jelly roll pieced top to turn into a second duvet cover. I’m using two jelly rolls – a rainbow of solids and plain white.

Now I just have to turn this into a duvet cover! I have to admit that I am a bit nervous about this part. I found a few online tutorials to get ideas, but am really not sure whether to double layer the top to enclose all the raw edges. Finishing all the tiny 1/4″ seams would be a total pain – but double layering the top and sewing the two layers together before attaching a bottom layer would also be a pain and make the whole thing a bit heavy. At the moment I’m leaning towards leaving them raw and unenclosed (they’ll be on the inside of the duvet cover of course – not visible when in use) and just hoping the fraying doesn’t reduce the life of the cover. I’m also on the fence about adding piping to the edges – that would be a lot of work too, and I’ve never made or used piping before, on the other hand I’m sure it would give a lovely finish.

If you have any experience or opinions on hand made duvet covers I’d love hear it!

Rayon floral dress and simple skirts

Rayon floral dress and simple skirts

I’m not loving sewing clothes for myself right now, but as this blog is my creative journal I’m going to put this out there. Here’s McCalls 6073. I don’t like it very much.

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The top is a very stretchy rayon knit, and the skirt is a rayon challis. There is elastic in the midriff which is really needed, as the skirt pulls it down. I made a size 20 top grading to a 22 at the waist and a 24 skirt with 2″ extra length. I might add that my measurements are close to a 24 in the bust and it’s still too big, good old Big 4 sizing….

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The thin knit is a bit of a PITA to get a nice finish on, to be frank.

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I actually shortened this dress to knee length and then reused the fabric to make a simple no-pattern pull on skirt.

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The waistband is a much stronger and more stable cotton-lycra knit. I don’t make it quite tight enough but I still wear this skirt all the time.

I also made a simple shirred waist light denim skirt that I also wear multiple times a week.

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The four year old photographer cut off my head, sorry folks.

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It is also a bit loose in the waist but I couldn’t make it any narrower and still be able to walk without restriction. The shirring was time consuming but it’s very comfortable.

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Which just goes to show that quick and easy is sometimes better than ambitious when it comes to sewing.

Quilted hexie pouch

Quilted hexie pouch

Here’s my first quilted project! It’s a small pouch made with my 1″ english paper pieced hexagons.

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The pattern is from Quilting on the Go by Jessica Alexandrakis.

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I spray basted the hexie top to the low loft polyester batting and backing fabric. I then quilted using a straight line pattern using my walking foot on my machine.

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I bound the edges using prepackaged double fold bias binding, machine sewn on one side and invisibly hand sewn on the other. It has a velcro closure.

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Once the hexies were done putting the pouch together did not take very long. I’m pretty happy with it!

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I have been reading various quilting books from the library and have found most of them, well, boring and not to my taste. I’ve finally found a quilting book that is intelligent, absorbing and inspiring. It has lots of interviews and gives a history of modern quilting. It is Quilting with a Modern Slant by Rachel May. I’d highly recommend seeing if your library has it.

English Paper Piecing

English Paper Piecing

So it seems I have a new passion – English Paper Piecing – which is hand sewn patch work, a very old and traditional quilting method.  I took a two evening class at Stitches Seattle, which I would highly recommend. The instructor was lovely and knowledgable, and the class limited to five participants. It will be running again in September most likely, if you’d like to try it. I do like learning new techniques at home on my own, but it was also nice to get a jump start on the skills I needed, and now I can take it from here. This is the coaster that I made during class.

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The hexagons on their own looked like this.

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The basic method (or at least what I’m doing) is this:

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1) Get some paper shapes, precut ones are fast and cheap but you could cut your own. Cut out some fabric, slightly bigger than the shapes, I’m using a roughly 1/2″ seam allowance but it doesn’t need to be very accurate.

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2) Pin the paper shape to the fabric and baste it on on the reverse side. You end up with a stack of fabric covered shapes like these.

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3) Whip stitch the seams by hand.

Of course that is a simplification but that is the basic idea. You would then slip out the paper shapes and treat your newly made patchwork top as you would any other quilt top – adding batting, backing, quilting stitches and binding.

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This is the front and reverse of the 1″ hexagon fabric that I made. Once I finish it I’m planning to make it into a little quilted pouch for holding sewing supplies. The project is in this EPP book that I borrowed from the library:

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I have borrowed some other books but they are not to my taste at all, and seem focussed on creating small EPP blocks to be appliquéd to a larger quilt, rather than EPP as a hand sewn top in it’s own right – and, they are dated and ugly. This book makes  EPP seem cool, the other books don’t. It does seem that hand sewn quilts and English Paper Piecing is a very small, niche corner of the quilting world. I cannot find a local EPP meet up group for example.

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My favorite thing about EPP is that it is sociable. It can be done sitting in the living room with my husband of an evening, not by myself down in my basement sewing room. All i need can fit in this little box on the shelf, and I can take my project to knitting group if my knitting mojo is failing, as it is at the moment.

So I have embarked on making my first quilt, EPP style. It is coloured stars on a white background using 2″ 60 degree diamonds. I tried a few different sizes of diamonds but did’t want to go too small as I’m aiming for queen bed size. I suspect I will work on this project on and off over a year or two – we’ll see how the enthusiasm flows.

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These are the fabrics I chose, from Gossypium Quilts in Issaquah. Cool name for a quilt shop huh? Gossypium is the cotton genus. They were picked very, very quickly, a few random fat quarters and half yards while my three children explored the shop… (warning – your pram/stroller will not fit down any of the very narrow isles in this shop).

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Here’s my cut and pinned shapes and my first star block.

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And here’s where I’m up to now. I’m rather pleased with my fussy cutting I have to say. So this is where my evenings are going right now, often with an audiobook or reruns of Buffy!

Rayon challis and shirring

Rayon challis and shirring

So I’m a bit obsessed with both rayon challis and shirring at the moment. Rayon challis is just the most lovely, draped summer fabric, and I’m beginning to think that shirring might be the answer to my woven bodice and stiff waistband issues. I started with experimenting with shirring and ended up making Tessa a pattern-free shirred dress!

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I modelled the size of a RTW dress that fit her and added some straps – super easy and I think it turned out pretty cute.

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She’s really running, climbing and exploring so dresses are a bit more practical now she’s off her knees nearly all of the time. I preached the fabric but the dress has shrunk up lengthwise since I made it – rayon challis does have a habit of doing this.

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I’ve got more challis in the works – I think all the girls will be wearing lots of it this summer.

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Gathered Skirt for Althea

Gathered Skirt for Althea

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Althea recently had a day off school due to a teachers strike, which conveniently fell on Julian’s preschool day. She desperately wanted to do something fun (you know, without her pesky brother) and to sew something with me. This skirt is what I came up with, for us to make ‘together’ during Tessa’s naps.

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I might add that Althea didn’t actually sew any of the skirt (“but I might wreck it”), and contented herself with sewing some straight lines on a scrap of fabric and lying under the cutting table reading a book.

The pattern is Gathered Skirt for all ages, a free pattern on the Purl Bee blog. The best feature of this pattern is the large side pockets. I was inspired by Soulemama’s version

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The worst feature is that if I wanted to print it out it would take 27 pages (!), so I had to constantly scrawl up and down on my phone, which was pretty annoying. Weirdly, instead of letting the elasticated waistband create the gathers, the gathers are created by pulling two threads and sewing the resulting gathers onto the waistband. This skirt is actually more involved than it looks.

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My waistband casing turned out a bit narrow for the elastic and I had a hard time getting the elastic in and fabric distributed around. Next time I’d make the waistband a smidgen wider. This pattern also convinced me to buy a quilting ruler.

I made the size 10-11 years, and the elastic to fit her waist which is a bit bigger than the pattern was drafted for (usually she fits measurement charts quite well). The fabric is a printed rayon challis left over from a Gabriola maxi skirt for myself at has been sitting dejectedly around my sewing space, nearly finished, for some time.

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It’s nicely twirly, the pockets are very practical for girls that like to pick up interesting things, and very comfortable. It drapes nicely in the rayon challis – it’s less pouffy than the pattern photo. Overall, a successful project, even though I didn’t quite get it finished on our designated girls day. It should get on to finishing my maxi skirt!

Knitting – Customfit pullover and handspun shawl

My sewing mojo has fled but my enthusiasm for knitting is high. Back in February I was lucky enough to attend part of the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat and I attended two three-hour workshops, one of which was by Amy Herzog. Amy is a very talented knitwear designer with a great passion for helping women make sweaters that both fit and flatter.Her workshop was an introduction to both the fitting and flattering parts and I found her very down-to-earth, amusing, knowledgable and passionate. She has created a fabulous piece of software called Customfit that allows you to input your body measurements and your swatched gauge and it creates a knitting pattern customized to you.

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The kind of shaping darts that Customfit uses – this is the back waist.

I came away determined to knit myself a fabulous Customfit sweater! My husband took the measurements, as did a few of the women in my fabulous knitting group. I also took quite a few peoples measurements which was a great privilege – it’s quite confronting to be faced with a measuring tape in a coffee shop. I trawled Ravelry customfit projects extensively and choose a deep V neck pullover in stockinette, trimmed with garter stitch bands. The yarn I’m using is Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. In my size on 3.5mm needles it’s taking a while but I am determined to have a wearable sweater soon!

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Front and back are completed.

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The yarn is quite heathered.

Finding all the endless stockinette quite boring (but TVable which is good) – I was resisting starting another project as I want to wear the sweater before the summer. However – I have relented. I was thinking of making my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher a hand knit shawl or scarf as an end of year gift. I have this lovely ball of fine wool and silk handspan that I bought from the Handweavers & Spinners Guild of Victoria stall at the Collingwood Childrens Farm Farmers Market some time ago.

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The first pattern I tried was Unleaving by Lee Juvan.  This simple looking scarf has a lace pattern with pattern stiches every row (I’ve only done every other row before) which made it very slow and difficult. By far the most annoying part was that the same symbol means different things depending on whether you were on a right or a wrong side row – and since its garter based both sides look pretty much the same.  I pulled it out before I finished the full 16 row repeat of the pattern.

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So now I’m making Antarktis by Janina Kallio. My mother in law just completed the most gorgeous version of this pattern in Tosh sock while she was visiting – and the finished object was absolutely divine.

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So now I’m making one. I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to give this one away. The yarn is working up gorgeously and this kind of fine handspun is really one of a kind and irreplaceable. I might just have to keep it and find another gift.

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