Monday, May 30, 2016

Snowflake Quilted Placemats

Back before ChemKnits Baby #2 was born, I had an idea to make my first quilt for him.  I was afraid that as a second child he'd miss out on many things that I did for Lucky so I wanted to make sure that he got some unique firsts of his own.  I was fairly confident about the piecing, but nervous about the actual quilting and binding process.  Lucky for me there is a project in my learn to sew book that would let me practice quilting and binding.

When it comes to the quilted place mats in 1, 2, 3 Sew, I decided to go ahead and make all 4 of them as indicated in the project. I'm using a fun snowflake fabric pattern to make a set of holiday place mats.  I think that the sewing in circles will be a useful skill PLUS I will get to try out some machine binding.

Before even cutting the fabric for this pattern I found myself watching multiple videos on machine binding.  I'm still not quite sure what the written instructions are telling me to do, but I'm feeling more confident that I can figure something out.

I cut folded fabric as directed, creating 8 separate pieces for the top and bottom of each place mat plus 9 strips.  For the front and back, I cut along the edge so I could keep the fabric along the fold to use for a future project (creating a larger scrap.)  For the binding edge pieces, I cut all the way across to have longer binding strips so I will have to sew fewer of them together when finishing this quilting.

I used my cutting board to help me center the circle on the placemat and to pin the three layers in place.   I didn't pin all the way out to the edges yet because I figured that the fabric could shift a bit, but I pinned out most of the center portion.

You can barely see the white pencil circle in the center
The bottom of the first circle puffed up a bit (not shown), but after that the quilting started going pretty smoothly.  I'm not sure if I like how large the first circle is in the center, but I can always go back and quilt a smaller one in when I'm done.

The subtle first quilting

You can barely see the quilting on the placemat because of the busy pattern, but that is part of the point of choosing a matching thread.  While this design would probably be more appreciated on a solid fabric, I appreciate the practice as I prepare to make my first ever quilt for my second baby.

I hope that my quilting won't unravel.  I'm not backstitching over the beginning, but instead stitching over where I started at the end of each circle.  We'll find out whether this is sloppy or if it works!  I'm trimming loose ends as I go so that I'm sure to find them all.  As the circles get bigger it is easier and easier to pick up speed.

Not that you can really tell from the pictures, but I hit the outside edge of the concentric circles on the same round.  I'm not at the SAME place on the edge, but pretty close.  This speaks well for my ability to keep the stitching distance relatively even.  Since you can't really see the stitching, I'm not going to worry about the edges being symmetrical but just continue the circular quilting to the best of my ability.  (Now that I'm not doing a complete circle I will backstitch at the beginning and end of each row.)

I ran out of the first bobbin when I was nearing the end of quilting the second place mat.  There is still plenty of thread on the spool and I have a second spool in reserve.  I believe that I'll be able to make it to the end of this project without running out.  Wahoo!

The second bobbin and then first spool of thread ran out when I was almost at the end of quilting the 4th placemat.  I'm so glad that I thought to purchase a second one!  This means that when I'm doing Boogaloo's quilt that I'll really need to make sure that I have enough thread for all of the quilting.

The placemats required a bit of trimming to square things back up after the quilting.  I'm not sure how the fabrics shifted so much when I had everything lined up, but maybe this is why a walking foot would be useful?  Yes, watching some videos about using a walking foot confirmed that I will want one of these before I start quilting Boogaloo's quilt.

After squaring the placemnats they aren't perfectly the same size, but I could trim them more if I really wanted them to be identical.  I don't care that much about perfection in this project so I'm just going to go with what I've got.

I attached my binding strips without breaking the thread in between each one.  This is a technique I saw in some videos online.

I switched to my 1/4" seam foot to attach the binding.  I was a little confused by the written instructions for machine binding here so I'm going to re-write out what I understand to be the plan.
  • Make binding at least 65" long.  (I sewed 4 strips together for the first one. 
  • Press 1/4" of one side of the binding (started as 1.5" strips.)
  • With the RS of the placemat up, match the raw edge of the binding strip (not the pressed edge) to the raw edge of the quilted mat.  Attach binding as directed.
  • Fold over binding.  Stitch in the ditch of the RS to attach the binding on the wrong side.  

Attaching the ends of the binding didn't go nearly as bad as I thought.  Maybe it would be easier to hand stitch (or at least baste) these together since I had trouble fitting this into the machine and keeping the correct angle.  At least you can't tell where the ends joined together on the finished placemats.  

From other videos I watched on machine binding, I learned how to attach the ends at an angle for the last bit of binding.  This was easier to do than I expected and I was able to finish off the binding.  

This wasn't nearly as bad as I thought!  The back of the quilt doesn't look perfect since there are some overhangs of different widths, but for a placemat who is going to turn it over?  I'm so proud of myself!  These will be a great addition to our holiday dinner as Keith and I host Christmas Even with his parents for the first time ever.  I can't wait!

Started 11/21/2015.  Finished 12/5/2015

Friday, May 27, 2016

What's this? A hat for another pal!

Buddy Nueve loves his What's This? hat we made him for the holidays.  It seems only appropriate that Buddy Ocho, which is about 6 months younger than Lucky, should get one, too.   Buddy Ocho lives in California but is visiting us in December so this is a gift that could help her out in facing a cold Massachusetts winter.*

*At the time of starting this project it is the beginning of December and currently 50 degrees F outside.  I was hangning out in my yard wearing only a tshirt.  Then again, I am over 7 months pregnant and am running super warm right now!
For this hat, I selected a yarn that I spun while Lucky was a newborn. This wool/silk blend should be super warm and I designed this pattern specifically to showcase handspun yarns.  Like the original What's This? hat,  this yarn is 10 WPI.  I also have 100 yards of it which should be plenty to create another version of the hat.  Unlike the What's This? Hat I made for Buddy Nueve and the original design, this yarn is not single ply.   This is a N-ply yarn but I think that the hat should still have plenty of character.

I had some pink handspun yarns in my stash that I would have loved to use for this hat, but they were all a little too thick and I didn't want to have to modify the pattern a lot of make a hat to fit Buddy Ocho.  Plus, Ocho's parents love the color green and they are expecting their second baby this spring (who should be born by the time this post is published!)  This hat should work for the new baby in addition to big sister, and I like things that can be reused.

When it was time to wind the yarn, I ran into the issue I've been having in my knitting studio since I set it up.  Since I first showed it to you guys, I've added a sewing table.  Unfortunately the sewing table, my writing desk and my Expedit bookcase are all too thick to set up the swift and winder!  Thankfully the swift fits well on a folding TV table but I don't wan this to ever become a permanent addition to my knitting studio.  We'll have to figure out a solution at a later date.

The horror! My size 5 needle tips are missing!  (the 6's are accounted for in a sweater for Lucky.)   Most annoying is that I have some size 5 shorties in the mail coming my way, but I don't have much time to wait to start working on this projects so I'm going to have to use DPN's.  I'm sure they will turn up eventually, probably in the folds of my couch where I most often knit.  Or else I hid them from Lucky and did too good of a job so I can't find them.  ARGH!  It is a Saturday night and my shorties aren't scheduled to arrive until WEDNESDAY!

I'm a bad girl and didn't check my gauge but trusted that the sizing would be fine.  Comparing this ribbed portion to Lucky's hat it matches up well, so I think I'm safe with the sizing.  (Of course, I have no information on Buddy Ocho's head size but with a younger sib on the way if it is too small it will fit another member of that family.)

Normally I'd keep details for the number of rows I knit in each section, but since this is a handspun vs commercial yarn the slight differences to the original design don't matter as much for helping someone else out.  This is why I included lengths for each section in the pattern.

I finished the base of the hat with about 2 yards or so to spare.  This is unfortunately not enough to make an entire bobble, so I'm going to add some of the tan and maroon from Buddy Nueve's hat into this hat for buddy Ocho.

The base hat is a little large for 26 month old Lucky, but that just means that it should last a second winter for Buddy Ocho.  

Since I had limited green yarn left, I made three chains of the bobble and then made the rest out of the same maroon I used for Buddy Nueve's hat.

The final hat is a little large, but it should fit Buddy Ocho for this winter and next.  This is great if she already comes to Boston with a winter hat then there is something they have that she can grow into (or use as a backup should the other hat get lost.) I'm so glad to be able to give something to one of my favorite toddler girls!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Breaking Wilton's Violet on a Twisted Hank of Yarn

I love breaking dyes.  In the past I've broken Wilton's Violet food coloring in many dyeing experiments and I've also broken Wilton's delphinium blue.  I thought it would be fun to try dyeing a whole twisted hank of yarn and see what kind of color breaking I could get.

If you look REALLY CLOSELY you can see that there is some color variation versus just tonal variation.  See the little spots of pink?

Obviously this didn't work out like I had intended, but that is why these are called Dyeing Experiments!  I often don't know how things will turn out.  Sometimes when I play with a new technique I get spectacular results and other times I'm a little underwhelmed.  Check out the new ChemKnits Tutorials Video to see what I did!  

Video Contents 

  • [0:00] Introduction and presoaking 
  • [2:29] Setting up the Dyebath 
  • [5:05] Adding the Yarn and turning up the heat. 
  • [6:30] Reducing Temperature 
  • [7:02] Checking in after another 10 minutes of simmering 
  • [8:13] Untwisting the yarn to wash it 
  • [9:55] The dry yarn and conclusions 

The colors broke... a little.  Maybe this would work better if I started with dry yarns instead of presoaking it.  Well, I have something to try out for another dyeing experiment!  At the very least I have a fun mottled purple and white yarn, even if it wasn't what I set out to create.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Minion Tote Bag

Aunties teach their nephews all kinds of whimsical things.  Things like what squid, giraffes and hippos say.  Things that make nephews giggle with delight when they see her.  It is only fitting that my next project out of 1, 2, 3 Sew be a useful whimsical item for Auntie's Christmas present.  (I'm skipping the quilted place mats project for now because those are for me and there is no impending Dec 24 deadline.)  

Auntie loves minions (I'll let her introduce them to the boys someday) so when I found this small scale blue minon fabric I knew that I had a winner.  I was worried when picking out the lining blue that it wouldn't quite work, but I think the overall effect is really nice.

Like with the craft tote, this project required cutting out from pattern pieces and cutting along the fold.  With the minion quilting cotton and canvas lining I wasn't concerned, but the burlap fabric moves so much that I'm nervous about handling it straight.  I'm also not too sure why this book gives you pattern pieces for things that are rectangular.  In the craft caddy there was one rectangle pattern piece and then multiple rectangles to cut that were just listed in the book.  Seems inconsistent to me!

Even though I wasn't going to sew the pieces together for a few days, I made sure to do the zigzag stitch around the burlap immediately.  I wanted to makes sure that it didn't unravel!

Unlike the craft caddy, this feels like it will be relatively simple to construct.  Just a few seams and learning how to do boxed corners.  How hard could this be?

The minion + burlap fabric is the same size as the lining fabric.  This is step 1 for things to lay correctly! I was nervous about the burlap pressing well but it pressed neatly with my iron's cotton setting.

Pressing the seams open on the put together outer and inner bags was harder than I thought. For the handles it was easy, drape them around the pointy end of my ironing board and iron.  However, how do you press around a corner?  It took a while for me to figure out that I should lay the bag flat, press down one side of the seam and then press down the second side of the seam.  I started with the outer bag which was frustrating since the burlap bottom seam isn't even so it was hard to press open. Pressing the canvas lining was much easier and if I had started with that I think I would have felt more confident.

Since the seam allowance wasn't pressed the best, I was nervous how the squared corners would go.  I started with the canvas bag this time instead of starting with the burlap.  I measured 2" down from the corner and then used my graded ruler (lining up a line with the seam) to make sure that my squaring would be perfectly perpendicular. 

I did the overcasting stitch before clipping the corners.  I guess you're supposed to clip and then do an overcast stitch, but I felt more confident doing the reverse since the burlap isn't very rigid.

I was worried that pressing the outside of the bag handle would be difficult, but it pressed really easily around the curve.  I'm super happy!  I didn't have to cut any notches or anything.  (I might have to cut some around the inside curve, but that will be after the stitching.)

I loved the bag as soon as I turned the right sides out, and it isn't even finished yet!   I thought about waiting to press until I was 100% done with the sewing, but realized that the way that the inside handles are pressed could alter how to stitch up the outside.

The handles lined up much better than I thought.  You would almost never know that I had to press them in advance of the sewing.

I didn't like the edge stitching around the outside of the handles but not also the inside, so I added some to the insides, too.

Closeup when done as written
Extra Stitching - you can barely tell that it is there but it looks great!  
The finished bag!
I'm really REALLY proud of how this bag came out.  It is simple looking but still has the whimsy I was hoping for. From a distance it just looks like a polkadot bag, only when you get closer do you see the minions.  (I would have still made the bag if the minion print were larger scale, but I think this is a cute result nevertheless.)

Project started 11.5.2015