Work-in-Progress Girl


Quilts I Own: The Red Quilt

So I’ve been thinking about how I haven’t really had a lot to post lately (I say that, but have three in progress posts, all very overdue, which I could expand out to six, but won’t…) and that got me thinking about how I should do a series of posts about the quilts I own. Not the ones I’ve made, though I’ve got a couple of those, but just the quilts that are in my possession, all of which were either given to me or which I liberated from my Mom’s house. The quilt I’m going to talk about today was kind of given to me, but kind of bought by me. Bought for a song, really, hence the kind of given to me part of it…

Back in I think 2010, my mom’s family had a family reunion – it was held out at my Aunt Helen’s house in the Fraser Valley in BC and relatives from the US (California, Alaska, Montana… no wait, North Dakota… the one with Mount Rushmore, maybe that’s South Dakota?) and all over western Canada came out for the weekend. In order to pay for the food and a bit of the water/electricity bill and all of that, the family donated items for a silent auction. My Aunt Helen took me upstairs to one of her closets and pulled out a pile of unquilted quilt tops and asked me to help her decide which one to put into the silent auction. My aunt at one point quilted A LOT (she’s more into making glass beads now), but she (like me) had a lot of finished tops and not so many finished quilts, so from the few she pulled out of the closet, I picked the red Double Irish Chain. I LOVE a red quilt, so hells yeah.

Quilting Detail - Red Irish Chain

I was ever-so-slightly afraid that my family members would bid like… $5 and a two-four of beer for this double or queen-sized entirely hand-stitched quilt, so I made sure to put down the first bid, and I bid $50. I thought for sure someone would bid above that, but I wanted it to at least start with a number less insulting than I thought some of my family members might give it. Nobody outbid me. (I mean, c’mon! It’s hand-stitched! It’s made of fabric, which is not free or even cheap! It came attached with a promise to get it quilted and usable! This was worth so much more than $50!)

It took a couple years, but when my aunt was coming through Calgary in 2012, she brought me the hand-stitched, hand-quilted quilt:

Red Irish Chain

Love! Did you see that quilting detail? The entire thing is hand-quilted in a one-inch diagonal grid! Crazycakes. When I got it, it was covered in cat’s hair, which I have some allergy issues with so I was going to wash it, but then I discovered some cat’s claw marks in it too:

The Dangers of Cat Claws!

Two edges of the quilt had several claw gouges in it, right along the edge of the binding, and I was afraid to wash it, just in case those clawed areas ran or frayed a lot. So instead I folded it up and put it away in the closet for two years, until this week when I decided to just suck it up, chuck it in the wash on gentle and see what would happen. SUCH a bad idea.

Forget the claw marks, which did fray a little, and which I think I should just whip-stitch together and then patch a bit of red blender fabric over top of. Forget that entirely, instead, think about what happens with cheap, non-quilt shop quality red fabric:

Cheap Fabric! Cheap Fabric!
Cheap fabric! Cheap Fabric!

The staining is almost all of it from just one fabric in the mix – that one with circle dots and stripes on it. Everywhere that fabric is up against a white patch, it has bled. (Sometimes it even blend from folded over areas in the wash-machine and the white patches it was touching were also bled all over.) It’s so frustrating and so disappointing because this is such a lovely quilt and I was really looking forward to having it in rotation with some of my other bed quilts. But to be honest, I could be a lot more upset about than I am, I’m going to try washing it with Oxy-Clean and see if it helps, but if it doesn’t… I’m still just going to use it. It’s a nice quilt, even if it does look like it went a dozen rounds with a sippy cup of juice.



May Bee/Exchange Blocks

Do you ever lose random craft supplies? Like, say, your good 12.5″ square ruler instead of your crappy one? When you only sew/cut fabric in one room of your house and it’s only like… a 90 square foot room and half of the floor is covered in furniture? Because I did that. My bad 12.5″ square ruler is still hanging around, so I can get some stuff done, but the numbers and lines are all faded and it’s got a slight inward curve on the side I tended to cut on the most, so I have to remember to use the opposite corner. Annoying. I really wish I could figure out what the heck I did with the good one because it’s so much nicer! I really, kind of desperately, need to clean my sewing space because it’s a gong show. But I’m really bad at organizing, somehow, and also it just seems like a boring way to spend my time. On the other hand, knowing where to find my things would probably save me time down the line. Or tomorrow, even.

Anyway, I got a few bee blocks done, one for my Simply Solids group, which is this block here:

Triangle Block

This block is for Deanna (at Little D and Me). She sent out the pre-cut fabric to make this great big triangle block. I was a little bit scared of putting this one together – so many bias edges! – but then it really just came together fairly easily. Deanna wanted it to be as random as possible, with no patterns to the fabric placement, so when the fabric first arrived, I pulled each layer of fabric out of the bag one at a time and laid it out into the triangle shape in the exact order they were in the bag, only making changes if two of the same colour were beside each other. And it seemed pretty good, but then I when I actually stitched it together yesterday and today I somehow kept managing to flip pieces or to sew the next triangle onto the wrong side, so my unplanned plan went at all out of whack, and all the greens wound up down the left side and across the bottom and all the darkest purple and blues down the right hand side. But it’s probably actually more random this way, even though things somehow seemed to clump up? So says I, anyway.

I really like that bright patch of orange in the middle of all that – I’ll be interested to see how it all ends up in the final quilt, once Deanna has all the blocks!

My second block is for the only May birthday girl in my Livejournal Birthday Blocks group. She requested a Card Trick block in forest greens with a trees/leaves theme on off-white or cream:

Card Trick

We have a few really traditional (and very triangle heavy) blocks in this years LJ group, including this Card Trick block. I’d never done a card trick block before, which surprises me a little because I’ve done A LOT of traditional quilt blocks in my ten years of quilting. I wouldn’t say this is one of my particular favourites, as far as traditional goes, nor one of my favourite colour combos. Every now and then I get the urge to cull my fabric stash and these kinds of prints are the things I tend to pull out to give away, because the colour is pretty muted and they can seem dreary if you don’t find a good way to pull them together, but then I wind up leaving them because you never know when you’re going to need something more neutral like this to tone down or pull back something else that’s a little more crazy. Or you just might need to make something for your Grandma and you know she’ll be all over that sort of thing. And it’s just as well because I might have had to buy a new tenth-of-a-metre of something similar if I didn’t have this hanging around. Anyway, for all my don’t-really-like-it, I really do hope that Suri (the recipient) will like it. And I hope it’ll work well with the quilt she’s planning, since I know she’s been collecting blocks for this quilt for a while.

So guess that’s that! Next up will be a very scary improv block for my Simply Solids group – gorgeous, but scary! I’m not good at improv! – and a birthday block for June, for Miss Aalia, in the brightest most Hufflepuff yellow I can find. (I’m pretty sure I’ve got a few things that’ll work, I just need to choose a block!) I’m hoping to get the birthday block done this weekend, so maybe I’ll have something to show early on next week, and the other… well, I still need to wait for the fabric, but once it gets here, I’m pretty sure I’ll hem and haw over it for a week or two before sitting down to work on it, freaking out about how bad it looks, deciding it doesn’t look that bad really and then questioning every life choice that lead me to quilting in general and bee sewing in specific. And then I’ll probably be happy with it in the end, because one not that improv-y block in a whole quilt can’t possibly stand out that much, right? (Because I’ll confess now: I’ve been looking at photos of waterfalls online and bookmarking ones that look like I might be able to work an improvish pattern out of them…)

See you tomorrow for the Doctor Who Stitch-A-Long! I’m even planning to pre-write my post, so it’ll be up sometime during the day tomorrow! (Still after I get home from work – I want to direct link to the ACTUAL Fandom in Stitches post, so I need to wait until it’s posted, and I don’t like doing that crap on my phone just so I can do it at work.) [ETA: You won’t see the DWSAL “tomorrow” because that’s Tuesday and the DWSAL happens on Wednesday. So, you know. See you Wednesday!]

Plum and June
Linking up to the Let’s Get Acquainted blog link-up!

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First Project Ever: Nine Patch Quilt top

Nine Patch

Well, here’s an old one. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about this, but I guess it’s time: I finished sewing this top together in April! Time-wise, though, that’s got nothing on the length of time it took me to put this quilt top together. You see, this was my first ever quilt project. And I started it approximately 10 years ago.

All the way back in 2001, I was living in Vancouver, going to school at UBC. It was a long way from home and flights are expensive, so for the Spring break (in 2002, by then) (which is called Reading Week where I’m from – it’s in March, which is maybe spring in Vancouver, but not too many other places in Canada) I didn’t go home, but I did go to my Aunt Helen and Uncle Ben’s for the week. They live in Chiliwack, which is… um… less than an hour from Vancouver, I think, maybe? I guess I didn’t pay much attention on the drive. In any case, my Aunt at the time was a very prolific hand-quilter. (As far as I know, she’s still quilting – when I saw her in the summer she was doing a lot of hand-appliqué, but I don’t think she quilts near as much as she used to. She’s always been a crafting butterfly, flitting from one craft to another, and kicking ass at whatever she tries. Lately she’s been into hand-making glass beads and then making various items from those beads.) Whenever we were sitting around and talking, she’d always be working on some project or other, and so she got me hand-stitching some blocks for her. Mostly she did a lot of traditional stuff, a lot of nine-patches in various configurations and appliqué always, and always done by hand. So I worked on nine-patches for her, and then I went back to Vancouver and that was pretty much it.

In the summer of 2002, I moved back to Saskatchewan and then somewhere along the line after, either later that summer or in the summer of 2003, my parents went to BC and spent some time with my aunt and uncle. And while they were there, my mom and my aunt cut out an entire quilt top worth of fabric from my aunt’s stash, which was sent home to me. And I started picking away at it. I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I did it all by hand.


When I first started, I drew every single quarter-inch line on the fabric before sewing them together, to make sure everything was “perfect” (you can just faintly if you’ve got laser-eyes see a pale blue line where the white fabrics were marked on that photo), but after a while I got lazy and started winging it. Which means some of my nine-patches didn’t come out nearly so square as they might have done. But also, and this was something I didn’t check, some of the squares of fabric weren’t entirely square to begin with, so my quarter-inch marks were making some of the blocks a little smaller or more angled than perhaps they should have been. In any case, I got the blocks all together, and then because I am obsessive like that, I couldn’t figure out how to put all the blocks together into a quilt because OMG there are 10 different blue fabrics and none of them should be beside another block of the same fabric! And there are 4 different off-white fabrics in the blocks and none of them should be beside another block with that same fabric! And OMG how do I manage all that with 98 nine-patches with randomly paired whites and blues!

I could never make it work, so it sat. And then it sat. And then it sat.

In a Bin

Actually, it sat in that plastic tub off to the left in that photo for most of 8 or 9 or 10 years (even that photo was taken years and years ago, when I lived in Saskatoon for a year in a crappy little apartment, above some man whose teen-aged son would cry his head off for HOURS whenever he came to spend the weekend), however long ago I started it and however long ago I finished stitching those blocks. In the meantime, I bought a sewing machine (well, half-bought, half had given to me for my birthday, a nearly but not quite bottom of the line Kenmore, which has never been serviced or oiled or had anything done beyond my cleaning out the lint and still chugs along pretty well) and started making baby quilts and gifts and starting and never finishing things. And mostly I had this idea that I had to hand-sew the blocks into rows and the rows into a quilt. I’d started it by hand, so I should finish it by hand, right? Well, reality finally set in, and so I sewed it together by machine this past April.

I made myself not be too crazy about where the fabrics ended up: I ignored the off-whites entirely, and separated the 98 blocks into piles by blue fabrics. Then I sat down and drew out a grid and figured out where I had to put the blocks to keep the blues from being adjacent to one another in any way. I put it together in chunks (I don’t like dealing with long rows) and then put the chunks together, and now I have a quilt top.

First Project Ever

It’s give or take on 78 by 90-inches in size, and I’d toyed with the idea of adding a border, but now I think I probably won’t. When I was stitching it up, I was worried that it would come out really drab looking – all that samey navy and all that off-white – and so I’d toyed with the idea of doing some sashiko in some of the white squares, just to liven it up a little, but ultimately, I don’t think I will. It’s not so drab as all that, there’s enough variation in the value of the blues to keep it from being too flat looking, so now I’m not sure what to do with it. There’s a part of me that would like to get my mom to hand-quilt it for me, maybe with some kind of medallion or something very traditional in those white squares, and there’s another part of me that just wants to bang on through it and put just go diagonally through the navy squares and there’s still another part of me that thinks I should send it off to a quilter and have her just do something… nice. (I haven’t done that because I don’t know that it’s square enough. I guess I should properly measure it. Maybe add those borders to help square it up.) I really don’t know, but heaven knows I don’t need to sit on it another decade while I stew over quilting plans.

(Although it wasn’t planned, I’m considering this a 12 for 2012 project, though I’m so far behind now that it’s a bit laughable to think of anyway. I think I’ll knock my origami quilt out of the running because I think it’s just not going to happen.)


Finished Project: Flowery Wall-hanging


Wall-Hanging a photo by clumsy chord on Flickr.

I have the most insipid names for the things I make. Well, I suppose that’s because I just don’t name anything, so I always default to basic description. This is a wall-hanging with flowers on it and too many flowery prints, so flowery wall-hanging. A baby quilt that’s pink? Pink baby quilt. I don’t like to label my quilts, and don’t, so I can’t see any sense in giving names to them either. I tend to think of my projects by certain names – the origami quilt, the brown quilt-along, the reflection one – but I don’t think they’re art that’ll someday be catalogued, you know? If, 200 years from now, some quilt historian finds the slightly tattered remains of this wall-hanging… I don’t mind if it’s called WH200129-94 with no name, creator, or date attached to it.

Anyway, yes. A wall-hanging that is flowery. I made this in the fall/winter of 2010, for my mom, but didn’t actually get it finished until early in January. (My photo is dated January 6.) I bought it as a kit (for a table-runner, which I made square rather than long) because the colours seemed like they might match my mom’s upstairs. I don’t know if it matches as I’ve not been back home since I sent it off to her, but it seemed like it might work. There’s a lot that I don’t really like about this project – the fabrics, the colours, the style, etc. It’s certainly not to my tastes, but when it comes to gifts, it’s best not to please yourself, anyway, right?

Anyway, it’s hard to tell in the photo, but there are buttons on the center of each flower, to help tie in the black thread I used to stitch down the appliquéd flowers. I quilted it using a kind of beige coloured thread, mainly straight line quilting around the outsides of things (kind of rounded-ish around the flowers) and then echoing the shape of the blocks.

This was the first project I ever made where I did the binding entirely myself. Normally I pass my quilts off to my mom for the binding, but it was for her, so it was time I learned to do it myself, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I’ve come to enjoy the binding process. Not so much stitching it on to begin with, but hand-stitching it down around the back. It’s satisfying to do.