Sunday, November 29, 2020

English Paper Piecing

 When I retired I had visions of myself relaxing with some hand stitching, so I treated myself to a kit for Tula Nova by Tula Pink, who designs English Paper Piecing patterns.  Tula Pink also designs fabric, and one can see many versions of her patterns using her fabrics on Instagram.  I however, decided to use this pattern as a way to feature my collection of Mexican themed fabrics that I've collected over the years.

Several rounds in, I'm enjoying this project.  The last time I did English Paper Piecing, I made my own papers and stitch basted the fabric.  Now, kits come with die-cut papers, and each piece is glue basted, so it goes much faster.  Getting a thin thread makes one's stitches almost invisible.  Check out the vintage juicer I use to hold my threads, it makes me smile every time I look at it.

EPP is not very complicated, and I got a lot of tips from Tula Pink's YouTube videos.  When I want to feel especially retired, I sit in my armchair and stitch a few seams.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Scrappy woven scarves on the rigid heddle loom


Weaving is very meditative once you get the loom warped, and one beauty of weaving scarves is that the warps are skinny and go pretty fast.  

As usual, I was using up bits of this and that, nice yarns I'd picked up at the thrift store, a mix of wool and linen in compatible colors.

I used my little loom, an Ashford Sampleit 8", a tiny thing that doesn't fit on a stand, so I use a cheap work bench I bought for 20 bucks at Harbor Freight. 

In the purplish scarf I also incorporated tiny leftover bits of yarn into the weft, which jazzed up the fairly plain warp.

Both scarves were finished with twisted fringe, which is my favorite way to deal with fringes. Some people finish their wovens by washing them so that the fabric becomes more fuzzy and tight, but I like the look of these as is.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Table Toppers

Table runners are great stash busters.  They use up not just scrap fabric, but also scraps of batting.

I used up some of my favorite scraps on this runner, and set them in my favorite scrappy block.

The one is the perfect size for my kitchen table.

I had some leftover blocks and a really nice piece of home dec fabric for this longer table runner.

I just alternated leftover blocks in a long row. 

I'd been saving an old seed catalogue with historical illustrations for the longest time, and it came in handy when I decopaged the top of this small side table.

It lives next to the chair where I read, knit, and watch movies with my eyes closed in the afternoons.

 Smokey the cat is a living and breathing table topper.  This is one of her favorite places to hang out.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Scrappy Knitted Projects

Why, who could this little jacket be for?  It is indeed for a special knitted creature.

Knitting this little frog was the perfect distraction: the directions were precisely written and took just enough concentration to be interesting.  The pattern is Kristina Ingrid McGowan's Frog and Toad.  It was very satisfying to knit an anatomically accurate frog.  His body was knit from the perfect green wool blend yarn I had reclaimed from an old sweater some time ago.

Eventually, after my tendonitis calms down, I'll knit him some pants, as well as a toad friend for company.

I finally finished an old WIP: a child's sweaters for donation.  Hopscotch Cardi by Rae Blackledge is a free pattern on Ravelry.  I used maybe one and a half skeins of Caron Cakes, an acrylic and wool blend that comes in self-striping colors.  I cut the colors apart to make the striping uniform.  

This baby sweater was knit from leftover bulky wool yarns and will also be donated.  I've made up this pattern, Little Coffee Bean Bulky by Elizabeth Smith, a few times.  One beauty of the pattern is that the stripes, and the small size, allow you to use up yarn left over from other projects.  In both sweaters I was able to raid my button box and found the perfect buttons.  Sometimes being quarantined at home gives me the opportunity to use what's at hand.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Crazy Quilt for Mexican Jenny

I'd pieced these blocks awhile back, intending to make a quilt about Mexican Jenny, the subject of the title poem in my 2014 book, Mexican Jenny and Other Poems.  Jenny was a woman who served time in the 1920s in Colorado for killing her husband in self-defense. She had been a sex worker in a mining town, and he'd been her pimp.  He'd beat her up for not bringing in enough money, and she killed him "with his own gun."   In prison she made a crazy quilt that told some of her story, and that quilt found its way into the personal collection of quilter and quilt collector Eugenia Mitchell.  Jenny's story spoke to me as a writer and as a quilter, and I wanted to make this piece as a tribute to her and to her story, which has been told in various ways over the years.

I've finally embellished 3 blocks of this project, and now I'm thinking about it in some new ways.  Originally imagined as a quilt, I'm now thinking of it as a fabric book that will not tell Jenny's story in a narrative way, but instead render some of the emotion in her story, as well as engage the complications of representation.

My dear friend Debra has been instrumental in inspiring me to take up this project, as she's also currently making an inspired and personal crazy quilt.  Debra also gave me the idea of the fabric book, which appeals to me for several reasons.  

The fabric book has freed me to incorporate non-textile media, like the vintage button card I incorporated into the block above.  I unthreaded my sewing machine needle and carefully punched holes into the card, and then attached it to this block with a silk-threaded running stitch.  I also like the idea that a fabric book allows the viewer to look at individual blocks, one at a time.

The images of women in these blocks come from various sources:  a CD of French women from historical postcards (also shared with me by Debra) and an embroidery transfer of a Mexican woman doing laundry from a mid-20th century embroidery pattern.


No matter how much we feel we know about a historical person, that knowledge is always shadowed by other familiar images, in this case about women, and about sex workers. 


Saturday, September 19, 2020

A finished scrap quilt (78 x 82)

 I recently finished a large-ish scrappy quilt.  It's hard to photograph in its present state, but you can see the design clearly in this older picture.

The machine quilting on this project is complete, and it's now labeled and ready to be mailed to its recipient.

Dang, it's hard to photograph a large quilt without getting too much cat hair on it.  I'm glad it's going to a household with a resident cat.

 I used a black and white backing from various flannel fabrics.  The foundation piecing made the quilt heavy enough to skip adding batting.  

It's been a really fun stash buster, and I hope its new owner will get a lot of pleasure from it.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

In the Scrap Pile



I've been making more baby and children's quilts for donation.  I was cleaning up some scraps and started cutting odds and ends into 2 x 3.5" pieces, which make nice leaders and enders when you're sewing up other projects.  Just pair these pieces randomly and soon you have a nice pile that can be made into a quilt.

It's the perfect mindless sewing: very meditative.

This next quilt began as a test block.  The big 20" stars are made from 5" half-square triangles, and squares were culled from the scrap drawer.  A friend gave me several yards of the navy border fabric, which has come in handy for unifying scrappy quilts.

You can't get any simpler than strip piecing.  I culled  primary-colored fabrics from my stash, cut them into width-of-fabric strips, and sewed them together with the same navy border.  This one sewed up in a flash.

Some of these quilts will be quilted using flannel for the batting and/or backing, and some will be quilted to fleece remnants, which makes them extra-cuddly.


As an alternative to sitting at the sewing machine, I crocheted this baby blanket from bright yarn left over from another project.  

 This knitted baby blanket was the result of my effort to use up some dusty pink yarn that the same friend gave me who gave me the navy fabric.  It's not my favorite color to work with, but combining it with a darker color made a nice blanket I think.

My box of baby blankets is now stuffed to bursting and will be sent off soon to Pine Ridge.  I feel the seasons beginning to change here in my area, so they'll arrive in good time.

English Paper Piecing

     When I retired I had visions of myself relaxing with some hand stitching, so I treated myself to a kit for Tula Nova by Tula Pink , who...