Sunday, 27 November 2011

Guest Crafts 2: Bandana Quilt (Hankie Blankie)

Retro Scarves quilt or Hankie Blankie

Retro scarves quilt rumpled from sleep

William Least Heat-Moon, in his book, 'Roads to Quoz', wrote of the "Wandering Foot" quilt that he had as a child, "Mothers, fathers, give forethought to what you allow your children to sleep under. I don't mean roofs and rafters. I mean something closer to their skins, their heartbeats, their souls if you will. My parents early put me under a quilt hand-stitched by a paternal great grandmother, a woman who saw Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg...."

My second 'guest quilt', coming hot on the heels of Sunshine's beautiful Kaleidoscope quilt, reminded me of that paragraph. This was made by a relation (what a crafty family!) for her daughter who was leaving for University. With a selection of retro scarves, she produced this wonderfully cosy Bohemian quilt. It makes me feel quite nostalgic for my student days (especially for my beautiful Indian skirt which lost a battle with a bicycle chain in my first year). There is something so comforting, when starting Uni, in having a tactile reminder of home, sewn with love. These things usually become fond heirlooms, and get even better with time.

My sister-in-law has a similar 'bandana quilt' made by her own mother (or grandma) when she started university in the 1980s, and following the tradition my mother-in-law made similar quilts for her grandchildren a few years ago (she calls them 'hanky blankies').

I think the thing that appeals to me the most (after my mandala marathon quilt escapade) is that the patches are REALLY BIG - how satisfying to sew!

Sunday, 20 November 2011


Hedley before adjustments

When I was getting to grips with serging, the thing that I coveted was a "dressform" (dummy) but as it was I had to tack the seams of the jumpers whilst wearing them. This involved a little contortionism though I was pleased with the overall result. Now I had read a number of articles about making the perfect dress-form using duct tape (see this inspiring video: making a duct tape dress form) and I almost tried it, but kept having visions of duct tape catastrophes.

Anyway a little windfall was all I needed to get my hands on an Adjustoform lady valet (on my wish list for a couple of years) called Hedley. When she arrived she was pretty slim... 

 ...well after a few glasses of wine and pieces of pie she split her seams a little and well...looks a bit more relaxed.
Hedley in her new home after adjustments

In fact I would go so far as to say she looks a little like me.
Me and Hedley

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Guest Crafts 1: Kaleidoscope Quilts

Although I haven't got lots of friends and family and the only people who read this blog are an even smaller subset of the aforementioned small group, just about most of them have more than a few crafty bones in their bodies. So I thought a 'Guest Crafts' sub-blog blog where I focus on crafts made by friends and family would make a nice change. As we all go by pseudonyms I shall call my first guest crafter Sunshine.

Sunshine's first kaleidoscope quilt
Second kaleidoscope quilt

Sunshine obviously has a mathematical bent and produces these amazing kaleidoscope quilts. The small one is the prototype I think. The second one she made at the request of someone who saw her first quilt and liked it a lot. I think the second one is fantabulous. I am calling them kaleidoscopes because that is what they make me think of.

What I love about this quilt is that at first it appears completely random and asymmetrical, but when you look from the centre, the pattern suddenly jumps out at you, then you find your eyes whizzing around finding patterns within patterns. I love the bold fabrics. I am also in awe of the way she managed to get all the points so pointy. Anyone who has ever tried to make a quilt with triangles will know that it is actually quite a tricky thing to make points pointy. Mine often end up blunty (maybe because I never measure anything) and there is usually a great deal of unpicking involved.

Hopefully I will be able to show more of Sunshine's work in the near future as she also dabbles in wool-related crafts.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Knitting inside out and Serging ahead

When I start a new hobby I think I can do really difficult things straight away. For my first proper knitting project in 2004 I chose to knit a Rowan cotton 'denim' jersey for my friend Slim: Fleet design. I had never actually learned how to knit properly or read a pattern so I had figured how to knit and purl through playing with needles and wool…but I thought a knit was a purl and a purl was a knit so when I started knitting this jersey it looked nothing like the picture in the book because I was actually knitting it inside out. It also took an incredibly long time, and over the course of many months I gradually relaxed, which made the front about 10cm longer than the back (tense concentration in the beginning) and the sleeves really really long because they came last. However, when sewing up, the neck hole was very small, so he could not get it over his head. So it became my jumper.
Rowan denim 'Fleet' jersey with very long sleeves
Rowan Fleet after the chop
This year I acquired a still boxed, never used serger/overlocker from Oxfam. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to attempt threading the beast, but once I got going I spent a happy Saturday chopping away at seams. My oddly proportioned Rowan was first on the list for the chop. There wasn't great method it, but I was very happy with the result (except one sleeve is still slightly longer than the other - I think this is because Madonna's Swept Away was on at the same time and it was like watching a car crash so I think I might have veered off my chalk lines in distraction).
Rowan 'Fleet' with normal sized sleeves

Inspired by this modest success, I attacked 2 of mum's homemade gems (she is a good knitter but I gave her a bad pattern). I love the tailored result, but the lovely soft wool sure does bobble. I did have a sweater debobbler but I think it is possessed by a demon because it doesn't work when I want it to and turns on by itself when no-one is looking at it. Anyway Slim fixed it so now it is broken completely. I used a Bic razor instead which is much better and I would highly recommend this method for debobbling sweaters.
Serging for Simpletons

Mum's home-made cardie pre- and post-serging attack
Mum's second attempt cardie post serging