‘Country charm’ cushion

I finished the 22 inch square cushion / pillow made from Moda’s ‘Country Charm’ fabric designed by Holly Taylor. I’m pleased with the overall look but unfortunately the mitred corners don’t come to a point at the corners of the cushion, which is a shame. I made borders with mitred corners to front and back and managed to get them to meet, but when sewing front and back together somehow didn’t have the corners of the cushions precise enough. It’s difficult because they’re back-to-back and of course the front is quilted so you can’t see the front fabric, but to be honest I hadn’t really thought about it until I turned it the right way out and saw the problem. If I’d given it more thought I guess I could have put pins through the points to try and get them to line up, and while it may not have been perfect it would have been better. I’d already reinforced the opening at the back where the pillow or cushion pad goes in with an extra line of stitching and really couldn’t face unpicking it, so it’s staying like that. I’d already trimmed the fabric and wadding at the corners and think unpicking and resewing it would have done more harm than good anyway. Oh well, it’s not like it’s an exhibition piece! I really like the colours of this fabric range. I wouldn’t usually use some of the brighter colours, nor the filler that’s got sort of geometric lines on it, but as they were part of the pack included a few and they do help balance it all out.

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Pillow front

 

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Pillow front
Cushion back
Pillow back

I need to get on with the autumn quilt that’s composed of flying geese and squares, and have almost finished a block I started back in December, but with I think 53 blocks finished and about 10 to go I’ve run out of enthusiasm. It’s trying to come up with fabric  combinations that’s getting to me, so much mental energy and time required! I do know that’s pathetic, and the longer I leave it the less keen I am on some of the blocks I’ve already done, so must give myself a prod.

Having said that, today’s warmer so I’m off to the garden to plant some plants – go to take the opportunity to be outside when it presents itself!

 

Quilted pillowcase front

I finished quilting the front of the big square pillowcase on Sunday (not Saturday as I’d intended!) and am pleased with the result. I’ve wanted to try quilting lines parallel to the seams of the square patches for a while, but the first time I tried it was a disaster, so my skills with the sewing machine must have improved – that, and getting a quilting foot. I can’t do a few backward stitches to anchor it like you’re supposed to because I find it hard to see exactly where the needle is and I don’t want to overshoot the edges, so I sew them all in by hand which is time-consuming.

I was inspired by (i.e. copied) the quilting on a quilt I bought from a catalogue years ago, before I started doing patchwork, but for various reasons only brought out of its packet this year after we moved house. It’s lovely shades of green and yellow with a little bit of white and blue floral mixed in, and has squares in the middle then strips round the outside. That quilting pattern is the squares-within-the-squares thing then parallel lines around the edges where the strips are, so I put two parallel lines round my mitred borders. I decided they’d be too close together if I made them equidistant, but that one line only would look daft, so the space between the squares and the first line is 6/8 inch like the lines within the squares, then the outermost line is 1/2 inch from that.

The second photo is of the back of the quilting because you can see the pattern more clearly. You can also see where I’ve got threads that still need to be sewn in!

Sorry if the blue background looks odd, I took it outside to photograph because the light’s better and needed something to keep the item off the ground, and this is all I had to hand. Taking it outside has actually made it look over-exposed; the colours are darker / brighter in real life, more like in my previous post. But I’m no photographer!

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Next step is to finish sewing the ends in then to sew the front to the two back pieces. Before I do that I also need to hem the edges of the back pieces where they overlap for the pillow to be inserted.

Pillow / cushion cover using Holly Taylor’s Country Charm fabric by Moda

I’ve been working on a 22 inch square pillowcase, to replace a shop bought one I got years ago that has fallen apart. I chose this fabric because I wanted the brown leaf fabric for my autumn quilt but it sold out before it hit the shops here so the only way I could get some was in a charm pack, and this is how I chose to use the rest of the charm pack. There are some fabrics in it I wouldn’t have chosen myself, but of course they work as part of the whole – and those I was least keen on are going to be inside the flap on the back! I loved using the pre-cut squares and not having to choose for myself which colours to put together; would have been better if I’d done that with the still unfinished autumn quilt! I have added a mitred border and had to buy fat quarters for that.

Anyway, today is quilting day. I finished the front the week before last, made the two back pieces over the long weekend (except two mitred corners that I did yesterday), and today is for quilting the front. Here goes!6FB1388E-2028-406F-821B-7F02B93C2252

Christmas presents

I stayed with my parents last week, as I can’t stay with them at Christmas this year, and just managed to finish the Christmas presents I was making for Dad and brother before I left. Contrary to my giddy expectations of a previous post, Dad’s cardigan was not ‘the one’ – the first one I’d have completely finished ready to take with me or even, the pinnacle of endeavour, to have posted before I left in order to reduce the amount to carry on the train. It is a very heavy cardigan!

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When I got home I’d almost finished sewing it up (partly on the train!) but had still to make the buttonband and collar and of course to sew on the buttons. Due to having other things to do when I was there, a large hitch with the buttonband, and my usual inability to judge how long things will take to do, I ended up having a couple of nights of very little sleep while I worked on it and only finished sewing on the last button 2 hours before I was due to leave. Do I never learn?

I don’t recall ever having done a buttonband with a circular needle before, and found that my usual modus operandi when it comes to picking-up-and-knitting (which I hate) didn’t work here. I usually use a thinner needle to go along in the opposite direction, then knit on the way back, because I find it really hard to pick up the right amount of stitches. But pushing a circular needle all the way round, which was in any case difficult because I used the actual size you’re meant to use rather than a thinner one, and it kept getting stuck, left me with the unforeseen circumstance of then actually not being able to knit. Idiot! Thus we live and learn. I think it took me a whole ‘evening’ (after I’d gone to bed because I didn’t want Dad to see the garment, so for ‘evening’ read 10.30 p.m. – 1 a.m.) to push the needle through and a large chunk of the next ‘evening’ to pull it out again.

I also ran out of yarn for the collar, because I did a yarn substitution due to the yarn for which the pattern was intended not being available, and guessed incorrectly how much yarn would be needed. In the end, though, I think it’s better like this because I don’t know how much he’d love having a big lumpy collar. That did mean I never got to try short row shaping (wrap and turn), which I’ve never done before, but it was leaving it rather late to try a new technique so is no doubt for the best.

The pattern is for Berocco Vintage Chunky and called ‘Fitzgerald’. The actual yarn I used is Paintbox Wool Chunky, sold only online by LoveCrafts in the U.K., so far as I can tell. When I ran out I looked online and they’d sold out of that colour and the product couldn’t be bought anywhere else so may be made exclusively for them. It’s 50% wool, 50% acrylic. I thought I preferred 100% wool but that’s expensive and I actually think this is okay, though not eco-friendly.

It’s a very heavy garment though, especially with the moss (seed) stitch and cabling, so I hope he’ll wear it. It looks as thought it should be an okay fit.

 

The other present I finished was a pair of pyjama bottoms for my brother, with pockets, made from glow-in-the-dark fabric. Just what every self-respecting 29-year-old wants! Ah, what it is to have an embarrassing older sister. Fortunately, no-one except you need know!

Because I’ve made this pattern before I didn’t struggle with it, praise be, and when I set off to visit my family had only to sew the ends of the waistband elastic together, slip-stitch the casement edges together over hole for the elastic, and put the waist tie through. I’ve long since given up on that difficult bit for finishing seams (can’t remember what it’s called: overstitching?) and just use pinking shears instead. I used to think I was a perfectionist, then I discovered what it really takes to be a seamstress and settled for third-best.

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Autumn stripey jumper

I wanted to call this ‘rainbow’ jumper but it isn’t the ROYGBIV colours. It’s knitted in Sirdar Colourwheel, which I wouldn’t normally go for because it’s acrylic, but I’m glad I did, I do love it. It fits nicely, is comfortable, and because it isn’t wool doesn’t make me itch. The pattern’s by an independent designer and I bought it from Ravelry, being the only pattern I could find for the yarn that was for a garment rather than accessory (shawls). I only just managed to make it with the two balls of yarm, as I had to cut pieces out periodically for the sewing. I did faff about unravelling one ball and rerolling it from the other end, so I could have the dusky pink at neck and cuffs rather than the yellow or orange, I just thought it would look better that way. Did have a few problems with the pattern and had to contact the designer, but it turned out my problems were because her team had accidentally posted and sold the interim rather than the finalised version of the pattern! I actually finished the knitting and the neck a few months ago, but didn’t bother finishing the sewing up until the weather got cooler and I wanted to wear it.

In other news, I’ve a new job so we’ll be moving house / flat in January – once we’ve found somewhere to move to. I’ll be really sad to leave our allotment, so am looking to rent somewhere with a small garden, which fingers crossed might be possible where we’re moving to, which is a bit less expensive than where we are now, where renting somewhere with a garden would be far beyond our means. I’m already really busy trying to finish work and continuing professional development projects before I leave this job, but will get even busier soon when it comes to packing the flat (and garage!) up. I’ve got two Christmas present craft projects to finish but am nearly done with one and making good progress with the other. Whether I’ll have it finished in time to take to my parents’ when I go to visit them shortly, as opposed to my usual rush to finish it at nights when I’m staying there, is another matter…

Could this be ‘the one’?

No, not the bestest garment wot I’ve ever knitted. I don’t think I even like it that much, in truth. But it could be the first garment intended for a Christmas present that gets finished without it being a last-minute rush at 1 a.m. Not necessarily on Christmas Eve, this one, like previous ones, is for Dad and I go to stay with my parents in early December, so I want it finished about a month before Christmas. Usually what happens is that I have it almost finished before I go home but then end up staying up til past midnight in my old bedroom, night after night, til it’s done just before I leave! The plan is not this time. This time, I want to have it finished in plenty of time and post it home, because it’s big and heavy and it will be a significant non-addition to my luggage.

It’s okay, but not what I’d choose to make with unlimited funds and time. The yarn’s chunky so it’ll be warm but really heavy, which the recipient might not like (the weight, not the warmth, he’s always cold), but that can’t be helped.

The yarn’s Paintbox Wool Chunky, 50% wool and 50% acrylic. That’s a substitute for Vintage Berroco Chunky, which is 52% Acrylic 40% Wool 8% Nylon and costs twice as much. I used the yarnsub.com website to find it – it said Paintbox has very similar qualities but less yardage, so I guessed and bought 14 balls instead of the 12 called for in the original pattern. I’ve used 3 and a tiny bit to make the back, but because it’s so thick I’ve changed balls mid-row instead of at the end, so as not to waste yarn, but I don’t like doing this because it leaves a thick bit mid-row. I’ve done it on the back because I think that’s less noticeable, but won’t for the front. The colour is British racing green, not the teal colour the photo’s come out as.

The pattern’s a bit complicated in that the chart’s got colours as well as dot-and-dash symbols to indicate different cable stitches. I printed it out (it’s a pdf download) on my black and white printer thinking the symbols were enough, but hadn’t checked and didn’t realise sometimes the same symbol appears in different colours on different rows, so when I did spot that I’d done a whole repeat and had to pull out 20 rows. I also forgot that after the first go of the chart you start each repeat on row 3, and did my first row from row 1 – fortunately these two mistakes were both on the first repeat, so it could have been worse. The eagle-eyed will spot that I made a mistake with one of the first cables, just above the rib, so that one goes forward and the next goes back. I decided to just leave it, I’d done so much by then and being on the back and base I don’t think anyone will notice, and I can guarantee Dad won’t care! He won’t be able to see it from where he’s sitting anyway!

I have actually finished all the pieces of my multi-coloured jumper, including the neck, but have left stitching it up for now as it’s too warm to wear it so I thought I’d crack on with this cardigan and sew up the multi-coloured jumper later. That means I’ve got three unfinished cardigans & jumpers on the go… ah well, come January I’ll be back on target. Maybe even December, if this is indeed ‘the one’.

Chunky cardigan back

Patchwork mat

I made this patchwork mat for Mum and Dad’s sitting room windowsill, to protect it from being scratched by ornaments. It’s about 11 inches square. A great bonus was that I was able to make it from fabric I already had, I think in all cases bought for the autumn quilt but then not used. Though the pinecones fabric I just loved and bought even though I thought it might not go in the autumn quilt, so am glad I’ve found a good use for it!

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I followed the instructions in Linda Clements’ ‘The Quilter’s Bible’ on how to piece an 8 point star and used a multi-sized 45 degree diamond perspex template. Needed a bit of help from the other half to work out how it works! The piecing is by hand, the quilting on the diamonds by machine. The bit I’m least satisfied with is the centre, because there were insane amounts of fabric at the back making a big lump, and I couldn’t decide what to trim and what not. In the end I did trim quite a lot but I think it’s made a bit of a hole in the middle, if you were to go poking it that is, it’s not particularly noticeable otherwise. But there is still something of a lump, not that it matters with an ornament on top. You can’t really see it in the photo – or indeed in life unless it’s pointed out – but I hand quilted pine needle shaped motifs in each corner, but they don’t stand out. You can just see a bit of one if you look very closely at the top left of the photo (the viewer’s left, that is).

 

As usual, I couldn’t get the ends of the binding to meet and had to do a fudge. When reading the instructions I thought this was how you had to lay it out, but then re-read it and saw you’re supposed to open up the fabric, lay it out as for when you’re joining binding strips together, and sew, but I just didn’t have room. As in the baby quilt, I ended up just putting one end inside the other and sewing over it at a diagonal, so there’s going to be a bit of fraying. I really must work this out before binding my autumn quilt, but given that I haven’t finished the patchwork blocks yet there is  time (a few years of it!) to work on that. Here’s a picture before I hand sewed the baclk of the binding, I think it shows the colour better.

A propos of nothing, some allotment photos. Really pleased with last year’s dahlias which overwintered in the garage and were replanted in a sunnier spot this year. This deep pinky-purpley one’s got so many flowers!

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Godetia, the seed planted directly into the ground where they are to grow, have been a revelation. Definitely planting them again next year! Here they’re mixed with dwarf dahlias and asters I grew from seed indoors then in our mini plastic greenhouse.

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This squash bed has gone a bit mad! (And yes, there is a renegade potato in there from last year). I planted a pumpkin and what we thought were baby gem squash seeds my husband’s father gave him, but they turn out to be what he thinks are patty pan squashes. Apparently he was also given some mixed squash seeds by father-in-law (passed me by – was I told? Hmm). Not sure I like the look of them, apparently you can eat them young like courgettes or presumably roast them when they’re older but they’re an awkward shape and I’m worried I won’t know when they’re ripe. I thought we’d planted everything far enough apart but clearly not, given that I can no longer work out where one plant ends and another begins. A recipe for problems I suspect but not much I can do about it now. Since this was taken more pumpkins have appeared and one is orange already! Need to read up on when to pick them, I guess not yet but haven’t grown them before so don’t know.

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P.S. I realised after posting last time I’d mislabelled nasturtiums as nicotiana. Don’t suppose anyone noticed, but if you did, sorry!