Little Red Fish

I’m going to the International Quilt Festival in Houston again this fall, and I’ve signed up for a couple of classes there. Going through this year’s class listings, I started thinking about the classes I’ve taken there in the past. I have some partly finished projects from those classes, and it seems like a good idea to dig those out and finish them. I have a bad habit of bringing things home from classes and putting them away, adding them to the stack of UFOs hidden in the closet.

This one is from two years ago. I took a class with Judith Baker Montano to learn how to make an under-the-sea piece using fabric and embroidery and various other embellishments. I’d done quite a lot there, but had not had enough time to finish it in class. I got out the partly finished piece and all of the materials from the class kit. Most of the background was done, and I decided that all I really needed to do to finish it was to add some embroidery and beading to the foreground.

This picture shows the work in progress, with some newly added embroidery. I’m not very experienced at embroidery, which made it hard to decide what to do. I followed some of the stitches in Judith Baker Montano’s book, Elegant Stitches. I definitely want to get more practice with embroidery, so that I have some experience to draw on when working on something like this.

Under-the-sea_08c

Originally the piece was supposed to end up being 7” by 10”, but I decided I’d make it smaller so it could become a page in my sketchbook of small quilts. I used a piece of card stock with a window cut into it to see how it would look trimmed down. 

Under-the-sea_04c

At this stage, it looked almost finished to me, but I thought it needed a focal point, so I added a bigger red fish to the foreground. I also added a few beads to the orange brain coral, and a bit more ribbon embroidery. Here’s a close-up of it, after I trimmed off some of the excess canvas.

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To finish the embroidered piece, I first hand-basted the edges through all of the layers of fabric. Then I used a small zigzag stitch to attach a length of textured yarn all the way around.

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Here it is, all ready to mount on a quilted background.

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The final task was to make the quilted 8” by 8” page to mount it on. I chose some batik fabric for the front that I thought looked a bit watery.

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For the back, I used a piece of batik that had shells and other sea critters on it. I layered the two fabrics with batting in between, and quilted around the shells, filling the spaces in between with some free-motion doodles. This is a fun way to get in some free-motion practice. Next, I used a couple of rounds of zigzag stitching to finish off the edges.

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I mounted the embroidery piece on the quilted page with a straight line of machine stitching, and finished off by adding the grommets so I could add it to my sketchbook. Here it is, all finished.

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I have a couple more class pieces I’d like to finish off before the end of October rolls around. I’ll post them here when they’re done.

Homespun 16-Patch Quilt

I’m still hand-stitching the back of the binding on my Sampler Quilt, so I don’t have a photo yet of the completed quilt to share with you. Instead, I thought I’d show you my latest quilt project.

finished 16-patch top

I had 16 fat-quarters of homespun fabric in my stash that were waiting for the right idea for a quilt. It dawned on me that the obvious thing was to sew up 16-patch blocks, with one square of each fabric. I thought it would look nice alternating those blocks with solid squares of fabric. Because the homespun fabrics are fairly busy, I decided to make all of the 16-patch blocks the same. That also made it easier to piece them.

A little bit of math and sketching later, and I settled on blocks of 6” square, finished size. I was able to sew 40 of the 16-patch blocks, and had 48 solid blocks of fabric, which gave me a finished quilt top of 48” by 60” with a few solid blocks left over.

What follows is a quick step-by-step description of how I made this quilt top.

First, I cut the fat quarters into 4 strips 2” wide, and three squares 6 1/2” by 6 1/2”

cutting fat quarters

Next, I took one 6” square of each fabric and used them to try out different arrangements of the fabrics. I was trying for a layout that broke up lights and darks without looking too much like a checker-board. This is what I settled on:

Fabric layout

Using that layout as a guide, I started to sew the 16-patch blocks. First, I sewed the strips together into 4 strip sets, each one corresponding to a row in the 16-patch block.

sewing strips together

Then I cross-cut the strip sets into 2” wide strips

cutting strip sets

and sewed those together to make 16-patch blocks

sewing 16-patch rows

sewing 16-patch blocks

and here is a finished 16-patch block, front and back.

16-patch front

the back view shows how I pressed the seams.

16-patch back

For the layout of the quilt, I decided to put the solid fabric blocks in the same order as the fabrics in the 16-patch blocks. I think this gave it a more organized look than it would have had if I’d placed them randomly. The fabric is busy enough, so this layout tones down that busyness.

finished 16-patch top

I’ve bought some more homespun fabric to add a 3 inch wide border around the quilt top. I want the border to frame it and to make the quilt a bit bigger. And then it will be on to layering and quilting.

Around and Around It Goes

The Tour de Fleece is on again, so I’ve put down my sewing needle and picked up my spindles. The Tour de Fleece is a spinning event, now hosted on Ravelry, in which spinners spin while the Tour de France is taking place. I don’t do much spinning through the year, so this event is a welcome prompt to get back to it. I’ve learned so much over the years of participating.

Natural Oatmeal yarn

This year I started off with a partially spun sample of natural Blue-Faced Leicester top that I got from Acme Fibres a couple of years ago. I started spinning it last fall, after the TdF ended. I only had about 33 grams of this fibre, so I decided to aim for a lace weight two ply yarn to make the most of it.

sample of BFL

This was the first time I’ve spun BFL. It’s so soft, and spins so easily. This is the 3/4 point of the spinning. The first half is wrapped around a paper quill, and the second half is in progress. I wrapped a piece of paper around the shaft of the spindle so that when the spinning was finished I could simply slide it off. This is a trick I learned from a fellow spinner last year as a way to avoid having to wind the singles into balls before plying. Another tip I picked up was to wrap a sample of the spun single around a bit of card stock to use as a reference while spinning. You can see it in the bottom right corner of the photo. It’s a very good way to make consistent yarn.

three-quarters finished

Next step was plying. I used a larger, heavier spindle for that (a 54 gram Picasso from Bosworth). I ran out of one single before the other, as you can see here. That was likely because I didn’t weigh the fibre after dividing it in half, and even more likely because my spinning still isn’t very consistent in thickness. To finish off the rest of that single, I made an Andean plying bracelet around my hand with it, and then joined the ends of the two singles together and spun on.

plying the BFL

Here is the finished yarn, wrapped around my small niddy-noddy. It’s approximately 95 metres of yarn.

yarn on niddy noddy

I finished spinning this on July 15, gave it a bath, and hung it to dry with some weight hanging on it to pull it straight. With nearly two weeks left in the TdF, I dug into my smallish stash of fibre and pulled out this pretty purple and pink BFL that I bought from Holiday Yarns when I was in Rhinebeck in 2010. I’ve been spinning it with a 43 gram Dervish spindle from Hound Design (also purchased from Acme Fibres). It’s looking pretty so far, and I’ve been having trouble putting it down.

purple pink BFL