A Plethora of Leisurely Projects

I have been having a great summer with a lot of enjoyable projects – I make a little progress on three or four of them each day.  I’m not getting a whole lot actually finished, but it’s almost August, it’s hot, and it’s time for me to stay inside and post a little progress.

About a month ago, I was having problems getting nice even stitches on my sewing machine.  I took it in for service.  Fortunately nothing was wrong with it, but that means the stitch problem may have been my fault.  I usually like to just charge into projects and figure things out my own way, but I thought it might be time to turn to the experts.  So I chose Leah Day‘s on-line class Free Motion Fillers Volume 1 at Craftsy.

To practice some of the patterns, I used some 15″ squares that were left over from a quilt-as-you-go veteran’s quilt my quilting group made two years ago.  Now that I have tried the stitch patterns, I don’t know that I will use them much, but I have learned so much from the tips and techniques she demonstrates as she goes along.   She actually uses polyester thread – I have boxes of it, but I have been afraid to use it for quilting.  Being able to use it will save me enough money to pay for that class!

I joined the blocks for another lap quilt for the patients at the Veterans Administration hospital.  I am a lot better at joining those blocks than I used to be, but it still is not my favorite thing to do.  But I am very happy to turn these blocks into something useful and say good-bye to them.

lap quilt

Free-motion fillers, quilt-as-you-go lap quilt.

But now for the project I am having the most fun with – hand quilting this vintage top!

vintage quilt top

I bought this vintage top back in March of this year.

I hand-quilted my first two quilts because my daughters said they wanted “real” quilts.  I used Coats and Clark hand-quilting thread in one of the approximately four dull and ugly colors it comes in.  The stitches were horrendous but the girls didn’t mind.  The quilts took forever (like, from 1999 to about 2008), so when my mom gave me her sewing machine with a walking foot, I couldn’t wait to say adios to hand quilting.

But then I saw this quilt at the state park at Washington-on-the-Brazos, and I loved the strong colors of the big stitches.  I thought they actually added to the effect of the piecing.

Barrington quilt

Barrington quilt

detail showing dark quilting threads

Detail showing dark quilting threads- I remember it with a lot more color!  Bad choice of picture?  Or faulty memory?  Hmmm.

I went so far as to buy some size 5 perle cotton, but then I needed to use big awkward needles, and it just didn’t look right.  So I put that idea on the back burner.

Then lately I have been reading Candy (at Buried in Scraps)and Tim Latimer talking about using crochet cotton.  I have been weaving for over 30 years, and I knew that weaving yarn and knitting/crochet yarn were two very different things, but somehow I missed the fact that crochet cotton is a chained cord, not a twisted plied yarn like embroidery floss.  I went looking for some and discovered Lizbeth brand – Hobby Lobby had it in about 20 colors, which was exciting enough, but then I discovered it comes in 160!  I need them all.

So I had a vintage top, I had wool batting, and I had a huge piece of muslin backing.  I decided to take a break from wrestling a quilt around on slippery tables to angle it through a machine, and from thread tension issues every time I change a bobbin, and give hand-quilting another try.  I told myself I would quilt each block differently than the others, and just see how it went.

vintage block

The piecing is not perfect, and I didn’t try to fix it – I am just enjoying adding color with big stitches.

block back with big stitches

The back – I think the multi-color stitching will make the quilt back more interesting than usual for me.

I am having the time of my quilting life!  The crochet cotton seems to me to be the right scale for these blocks – traditional hand-quilting thread just gets lost. It is the first time that I am purposely trying to use the stitches to add a layer of interest, instead of just to hold everything together.  I really like changing colors several times in each block, and also being able to just stop whenever I want.  (When I free-motion quilt, I feel like once I have started I have to cover the whole quilt so it looks consistent.)

It is taking me about 8 hours to do each block – that’s about four evenings’ worth of TV time.  But as I am working I am thinking of color and stitch possibilities, so it doesn’t seem boring.  Also since I am using a finished top, I saved the time of cutting and piecing.

The last time I was in the quilt shop by my mom’s house in Dallas, I mentioned using a vintage top, and the shop owner said in all seriousness, “That’s cheating!”  I was taken aback for a minute, and then I said, “I’m rescuing a top that some poor woman never got to finish!”  As I work on it every night, I enjoy that quilter’s  color combinations and piecing skills, and I think she would like how it’s being finished.