Decorating for the holidays: I’m all for simplifying!
Last year, the kittens were less than a year old at Christmas, and we knew that if we brought an 8- or 10-foot tree into the house, it would get crazy in here. This year, Ponyboy has beefed up to about 16 lbs and when the three cats go racing around the living, dining room, and kitchen, he can be a formidable projectile. So we don’t think we’re ready to go back to a real tree, and got the plywood cat-loving tree we made previously, down from the attic.
The coffee table needed some bright color…lucky for me, I had a cache of remnants that would fit the bill.
I started out with a whiteish piece of fabric, which I thought might work for a center square to machine embroider something on. I ended up giving this Urban Threads design a go: it’s a dirigible-driven sleigh for a steam-punk Santa. Then I squared up the fabric to the design, trimming the block to about 9 inches.
Of all the suitable remnants I had lying around in the hoard, I chose a bright red glitter cotton one, a polyester plaid shot through with gold metallic threads, and a polyester shiny metallic green fabric with diamond-patterned raised stitching.
For the lining or backing…I thought something gold would be good–preferably something I had in the stash that was already wide enough so I wouldn’t have to piece it. I brought out several…
Jackpot, of course I picked the one that was wide enough. I pinned it, right sides together, to the pieced and stitched top, sewed around the perimeter, leaving a fist-size opening, then turned the inside out and pressed the edges. Then I stitched around the edge of the finished square.
On the wall above the mantel in back, is what Skip calls…the Family “Palm” Tree.
Last week was our Spring Break and we did a whole lot of nothing.
Not complaining,,,not exactly. Our little “first world” problems are not really problems, but choices. We did a lot of householder-type things. And we helped and connected with some other people in our sphere of acknowledgement, ha ha, our little universe. How do you decide if a project is worthy of your time, talent, and trouble?
One thing I took on was to fix some pillows at the request of someone in my circle who takes care of an elderly fellow.
Someone in the old man’s life had done a marvelous job of creating the needlepoint canvases on these beauties, which now showed a faded frog (?) on a toadstool in the rain and a green polka-dotted slug (?) under a cascade of spring flowers. The pillows themselves looked to be handmade out of a sumptuous yellow wool fabric. But apparently a dog had used them for sport, and the stuffing was popping out of a number of unsightly shreds.
The first step was to undo. The manual equivalent of the “undo” link was to rip out all the seams so that the pillow pieces were left intact,
to be used as patterns for the replacement fabric. It turned out to be the first real workout I had with the lovely seam ripper Skip made for me, by turning it on the lathe (see kit here).
I also saved the cording that was inside the piping edges, two strips of piping for each pillow. The new fabric was a piece of cotton (as far as I know) I had in the stash.
The machine has a special foot that I love to use when applying mini-piping, the pre-packaged kind made by Wright’s, but that little groove was not going to work with this larger cording. So I used the narrow zipper foot, an attachment that is handy for a lot of tasks.
Next, I needed to sew the piping onto the new pillow backs, and then onto the side panels.
On the first pillow, I went ahead and attached the top piping to the side panel, then sewed the needlepoint panel on 3 sides to the sandwich of piping and side panel. The fourth side would be hand-stitched after the fabric was turned inside out and stuffed with the pillow form. On the second pillow, I sewed the piping directly to the needlepoint panel, then sewed the piped needlepoint piece onto the side panel: I believe this is how the pillow was originally made because I could see the hand-stitching that closed the opening in between piping and panel, after the pillow had been turned inside out and stuffed.
On the pillow in the forefront above, I hand-stitched directly to the needlepoint canvas, which I didn’t really feel good about, because the machine-stitched one behind it will probably hold up better. I reused the original down pillows, which were scrunched-up a lot inside the smaller pillow casings. But apparently that’s how the owner liked them and they’re very cushiony.
The needlepoint panels were a little faded and soiled-looking, but I didn’t know if I should try to wash them. I finally went to the yarn store and procured a bottle of Eucalan, a highly recommended no-rinse washing preparation for wool and other delicate fabrics. As the brand name hints, it’s made from eucalyptus oil and lanolin. The lady at Yarn Works cautioned that the article shouldn’t be soaked in a liquid because that would remove the sizing from the needlepoint canvas. So I mixed about a spoonful in a bowl of warm water and dabbed a clean wash cloth in it, then wrung it out and gently rubbed it over the smudgy areas of the needlepoint. It didn’t come out looking brand-new; actually I can’t tell any difference in the color or brightness, but after it dried it smelled a little better than before.
I wonder what the story was behind those little pillows–were they made by his wife, who has been gone for a few years now? Or were they made by another family member or a cherished friend? I hope they bring to mind a little spring-time cheer!
This is the second autumn table runner post, the first one presented a few posts ago, here. That first one was pretty much general quilting, with a pieced top and a whole underneath side, with batting in between, quilted on the Qnique longarm, or “mid arm,” as some people designate it. The raw edges are bound with Wright’s Quilt Binding.
If you had to categorize this next one, the main descriptive word that comes up is “appliqué.” It is quilted, in that small pieces of fabric were put together on the top. But the underside is not pieced, unless you count that I ripped it in half length-wise and serged the two long halves together. And there is no batting in the center.
Naturally, the fabrics used in these projects are mostly remnants from the 50%-off bin at JoAnn Fabric Store. I had a couple of larger pieces of fabric, say, almost a yard each, for the top and bottom. The top is a plaid fabric with metallic orange-gold threads woven into the check pattern. The backing is a striped very low-pile flannel in yellow, tan, and tobacco-ey colors that wash together. You can see the center seam of the runner above, and I decided to make one side a maple motif, and the other side an oak motif. All the leaf, pumpkin, and blackbird appliqués were cut with the Accuquilt Go! Big machine and templates. I backed each appliqué piece with Steam-a-Seam 2 double-sided fusible web, also cut on the Accuquilt cutter, and then ironed them on to the runner top side.
After the appliqués were applied, I wanted to pull them all together with branches and tree motifs. I looked at lots of methods for yarn and textile couching, which is technically just laying down strands of yarn or string and then sewing over them. Looking through my box of sewing machine feet, AKA my Foot Stash, I found that I had a heretofore unused Yarn Couching Feet Set.
The two plastic feet each had a small hole (one was larger) through which the end of the yarn was to be threaded. You hold the end of the yarn in one hand and move it around, if in “free motion” mode, and then sew over it. (You can also use it with an embroidery hoop and software pattern.) The kit also contained two different types of hooks to mount on the back of your machine, to use as thread guides for the yarn, a device for threading thick yarn into small holes, and some sample yarn and a DVD and basic instruction sheet.
I found this process to be pretty interesting, but this yarn was very slubby and every so often I had to cut and re-thread, because the big slubs wouldn’t go through the hole.
Next, after couching, I needed to sew down the appliqués. Originally I wanted to do a big thread-art project, using different colors of thread to add shading to the pumpkins and also do the tree trunks and branches in embroidery thread. But since I used the thicker yarn, I decided to just basically outline the shapes in one color and not do a whole bunch of shading, and leave it as sort of “primitive” colors and shapes.
After going over all the appliqués with free-motion embroidery, I spray-starched the backing and ironed both top and back, making sure the back piece lined up with the top. Then I sewed all around the edges of the top with Wright’s Bias Tape Maxi Piping in black, with the piping facing inward, toward the center of the cloth. I then sewed the backing on, right side facing the appliquéd side of the top, and sewed the edges, leaving the piping sandwiched between, and leaving about a fist’s length of seam unsewn, for turning. After turning inside out, and hand-sewing the opening closed, I pressed the edges, making sure the piping was peeking out and at the very edge of the seams. Then I top-stitched around the edges, about 1/4 inch from the piping edge, using thread that matched the top (and back for the bobbin thread).
Sometimes people will comment on the nice stitching, so I wanted to come clean and say that it isn’t me who’s responsible for that, it’s my Foot Stash. I use a special see-through foot with a little groove in the bottom, for sewing piping, and another special see-through foot with a metal attachment, called an edge-stitching foot, for top-stitching. And the machine has a triple-stitch function that I use for pretty top-stitching, setting the length on a 5 or so (normally it’s more like a 2.5 for ordinary seams).
It was fun to make, and the cats definitely like it. Sigh. Cat people will understand.
When we had lots of family members descend for the Beach Weekend, we were dragging out bed linens from the closet to accommodate folks sleeping on the beds, couches and floors. I found this quilt my grandmother had made. Part of the crazy-quilt patches had come unsewn, so after everyone left, I took it to the sewing machine to mend and repair it as best I could.
I’d forgotten that my grandmother wrote on the back of it. She had a whole set of these little tubes of “embroidery paint” similar to this modern-day product (click the link to see). For a time period, she was very prolific with the embroidery paint, making pillow cases, sheets, all sorts of things. She had been in the habit of stamping a design or motif onto a piece of fabric, then embroidering (or drawing with the tube paint) over the stamped designs.
This is what she put on the back of this quilt:
Here, on the backing (which looks like it probably was an old sheet, so thin here it is almost transparent) you can see the underside of some heirloom quilt stitching, all hand-sewn. In the next photo, you can see the top side of the feather-stitching, probably done in a few strands of contrasting-color embroidery floss.
The quilt top itself is remarkable too.
It’s made of patches of double-knit fabric, which was an innovative fabric type for those of my grandmother’s era (she was born in 1906). See this article at Seamwork about the differences between the double knit fabrics available then vs. now. John said, “I remember it [the quilt] was really scratchy, the sort of polyester material that leisure suits were made from.” Hence, the soft cotton sheeting on the back of the quilt, which side would go next to the tender skin of a little 4 or 5 year-old great-grandchild.
I’d like to say that I matched the embroidery thread and repaired the blanket in the style and manner of the original–but for me to do that would involve quite a learning curve. I picked a decorative stitch on the sewing machine and put the pedal to the metal. For any curious posterity, it will show obvious mending by machine.
Meanwhile, how enlightening to have this information!
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts