Category Archives: Needlework

Reverse Engineering a Springtime Sewing Project

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.

before jennyskip
needlework pillows, before

 

wool pillows jennyskip
underside, wool fabric

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,

undoing needlepoint jennyskip
Undoing the stitching to salvage the needlepoint (to the left is the new fabric)

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).

seam ripper jennyskip
seam ripper
pattern jennyskip
using the old pieces as a pattern

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.

piping jennyskip
creating new piping with old cording

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.

narrow zipper foot Viking jennyskip
narrow zipper foot

Next, I needed to sew the piping onto the new pillow backs, and then onto the side panels.

side panel pillow jennyskip
attaching a side panel

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.

hand stitching jennyskip
hand-stitching the opening between the piping and side panel
stuffed pillow jennyskip
turned, stuffed, and ready to be hand-stitched

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.

Eucalon sponge bath jennyskip
Eucalan sponge bath

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!

 

 

 

 

Round and Round with Small Window Covers

I got this little circle-making attachment in an after-holiday sale at A-1 Sewing, our local Husqvarna Viking store, and I’ve been trying to get some projects going, so I can make use of it.

circle-sewing jenny skip
circle-sewing attachment

First off,  I used it to decorate some window coverings for a superadobe building. (If you want to see more about this particular building, go to this PlenitudPR website under the heading “Bio-construction.”)

window covers jenny skip
window coverings

You may see this photo and think, “But that looks like a pillow, not a curtain!” True! The proprietors (who happen to be very dear to us) mentioned that their superadobe house could sure use some window coverings, that the windows to be covered were like portholes, about 12 inches in diameter and some were more oval-shaped than round.

superadobe windows jennyskip
some windows in the super adobe house

They were currently using pillows to stuff in the windows. We came up with some options that did not work, then a few that were more useable.

window cover 1 jenny skip
window cover attempt #1

This was the first attempt: it looked like a big circular potholder. I used white blackout fabric for one side, batting in the middle, and fabric on the other side, and edged it with double-fold bias binding, with a little strap for pulling it out. Unfortunately, you can see here that it was not quite big enough to plug the hole.

For the second attempt, I tried out a new design, sketched here:

sketch window cover jenny skip
hopeful sketch

The diameter was increased to about 26 inches, the center circle was padded and sewn around, and the outer circle was supposed to slide into the cylinder of the wall thickness to be held in place. But again, this design didn’t work well, although they were able to fold it a certain way to keep it from falling out, so it was somewhat useable, see it in the next pics:

cover #2 jenny skip
window cover attempt #2
#2 jenny skip
window cover attempt #2 from the opposite side

The third attempt included the brown dragonfly “pillow” shape shown above. Since they were already using pillows, and that worked…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I increased the diameter to about 16 inches and added a lot more fleece padding. Since the diameter was larger than was usable for the circle-making gizmo (maximum diameter for that is 10 inches), I did snap it on anyway and sew some circular designs in the centers of the covers, to quilt the fabric and batting layers together in the middle. The attachment comes with templates to make circles, 4-petal flower shapes, or 6-petal flower shapes.

window cover jenny skip 3
attempt #3 with 16″ diameter

And I should be glad to mention that PlenitudPR is an organization that teaches and promotes sustainable living, so we kept that in mind and used fabric remnants for our window covers, and thus kept those leftover pieces of fabric from potentially clogging the landfill.

More about the process here:

Pick Your Passion, 2nd Year in a Row: Quilting, Woodworking, Football, and Bluegrass!

Last year about this time, I blogged about the local Quilting and Bluegrass Festival, here. This year it was very similar, but more so!

Similarities: the Festival was held on a day when our college town had a football game. The Festival showcases 100+ gorgeous quilted works of art. One of the bands that played last year came back:  Patchwork. The vendors and store owners in the center had cool crafty eye candy to ponder and peruse, and the quilts were truly marvelous to behold!

Skip was busy helping out with an Eagle Scout project, which consisted of building some chairs for a community group home (he loves it when the younger generation wants to do woodworking),

Eagle scout woodworking jennyskip
Eagle Scout woodworking project

so I sashayed up to the local shopping center to see some quilts.

quilt raffle jennyskip
I entered three raffles, hope I win them!

Several of these pics include an information sheet pinned to the quilt, so you can zoom up and see the details, thereby crediting those who produced these amazing articles.

Celestial Soda Pop jennyskip
Celestial Soda Pop
Gator Life jenny skip
Gator Life by Lucy Goddard-Teel
craft corridors jennyskip
cool crafts in the corridors
smaller quilts jennyskip
gorgeous smaller quilts
hubby quilt jennyskip
The Hubby Quilt

 

I learned there are several quilt guilds in the area, holding meetings at various times, day or night. So there ought to be one that fits the schedule of just about any quilter or  wannabe-quilter in town.

 

 

Overshot jennyskip
This one features Overshot squares made with fabrics woven by the quilt maker
raffle Jennyskip
This quilt is to be raffled off in May…
australian dreams jennyskip
“Australian Dreams” by Charlotte Mason
hand quilted Lockward jennyskip
“The Bear Went Over the Mountain” HAND-QUILTED by Doris Lockward

 

Skinny Minnie jennyskip
Skinny MInnie table runner

I bought this cute mini-table runner from one of the vendors. It’s a great little project to place on a side table in the house during football season. Speaking of which, gotta go watch the game…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Table Runners

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.

table runner jenny skip
pieced Autumn table runner

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.

dscn1689
appliqué Autumn table runner, with Sheenah

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.

applique jennyskip
deciding where the appliqué shapes were going to go, and securing them down

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.

Husqvarna Viking Yarn Couching feet jenny skip
couching kit

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.

yarn couching jenny skip
yarn couching on the oak side

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.

accuquilt table runner jenny skip
finished runner, with free-mo embroidered appliqués

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).

jenny skip natural edge table and runner
Skip’s natural-edge table decked out for a Fall party

It was fun to make, and the cats definitely like it.  Sigh.  Cat people will understand.

 

Family History in a Quilt, c. 1980’s

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:

Gran jenny skip.com
For John, made by Gran in 1985

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.

Gran quilt jenny skip
double-knit patch quilt

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!

TURNING a NOSTEPINNE on the LATHE

nostepinne craftsbyjennyskip.com
nostepinne, winding a center-pull ball of yarn: Quince & Co Kestrel 100% organic linen

Is it the wand of Dumbledore, or the wand of Mickey Mouse the sorcerer, or maybe the switch your Aunt Gertrude chased you around the house with? No, no, no it’s a nostepinne!

The first I ever heard of the nostepinne was a few years ago when my wife asked me if I could make a yarn swift and a nostepinne.  Oh yeah, I can do that…. Sure… they are made out of wood, right?  After some research I found out what these devices accomplish for knitters. In the case of the swift, it is a device to hold a skein of yarn while it is wound into a ball.  The nostepinne is used to wrap the yarn into a ball that will feed yarn from its center (a center-pull ball).

Wikipedia says that:

   “The nostepinne, also known as a nostepinde or nøstepinde, is a tool used in the fiber arts to wind yarn, often yarn that has been hand spun, into a ball for easily knitting, crocheting, or weaving from. In its simplest form, it is a dowel, generally between 10 and 12 inches long and most frequently made of wood, around which yarn can be wound. Decoratively and ornately carved nostepinnes are common. The top of the nostepinne sometimes incorporates a notch or a groove, which allows one end of the yarn to be held secure while the rest is wound into a ball”

If you go to Spinartiste , you will find some images of very ornate nostepinnes.  This site states “The word “Nostepinne” has originated from Scandinavia and in Norway, it is actually called ”Nøstepinne” where the “ø” is pronounced like the “u” in the word “hurt”. In Sweden, it is often called ”Nystepinne.”

The traditions associated with nostepinnes in Norway were many… they were given as Christmas gifts, engagement gifts, or a gift from a boy to a girl to show her he was interested in her.  The more accomplished wood carvers would hollow out the handles of the nostepinne with captive balls inside.  These could also be used as baby rattles.

I have made my wife a couple of nostepinnes and even a swift. This time I decided to be a little more adventurous and add some carvings and maybe even some laser engraving to keep up with our theme of bringing 21st century techniques to 19th century crafts.

The design I lasered onto the handle of the nostepinne is derived from Norse Symbols And Their Meanings

(Source symboldictionary.net):

A modern representation of the Web of Wyrd, the matrix of fate (wyrd) as woven by the Nornir, the fates of Norse legend. The emblem, nine staves arranged in an angular grid, contains all of the shapes of the runes and therefore all of the past, present, and future possibilites they represent. The web of wyrd serves as a reminder that the actions of the past affect the present and that present actions affect the future; all timelines are inextricably interconnected- in a sense, it is a representation of the tree of life.

Pick Your Passion: Quilting, Bluegrass, or Armchair Quarterbacking

quilt festival
“Black & White & Cats Galore” quilt on display at the festival

Offering some recognition (!) to the quilters and musicians who put on the local Quilt and Bluegrass Show at Thornebrook. What a pleasure to walk the park, shop, and look at 75 or so gorgeous examples of fabric and thread art.

Thornebrook quilt show craftsbyjennyskip.com
Thornebrook setting for quilt display
quilt festival
quilt on display at Thornebrook

Thanks to the Tree City Quilt Guild, A-1 Sewing, all the vendors, and the musicians. Patchwork was the ensemble performing while I was there. I love to listen to beautiful, pure folk singing with string accompaniment. Sublime!

Patchwork bluegrass
Patchwork singing bluegrass in the pavilion

Here’s another cat quilt featuring redwork embroidery.

redwork cats quilt
cats in redwork
Pam McIntyre quilt at 2015 festival
this one is by Pam McIntyre
thread art at Thornebrook 2015
gorgeous thread art mini-quilts
 Pele art quilt Thornebrook 2015
Goddess Pele art quilt at Thornebrook
Pele description
artist’s description

The festivities were slated to run until 5 pm or until it rains, so looks like the rain won out. Meanwhile, in another part of town, in the pouring rain, the Mighty Gators barely squeaked by with a win against unranked Florida Atlantic, in overtime. Unbelievable! Amazing day: pick your passion and run with it!

Machine Embroidery Hack

This project is the second of a number of winter holiday quilts I intend to make for gifts this year.

Defining Quilting, Wikipedia writes that in America in the early 19th Century, the type of quilting done was whole cloth rather than pieced assembly. Piecework quilting would have been a thrifty pursuit, using up smaller bits of cloth. But colonial seamstresses were also able to employ thrift in the whole cloth quilts by using old blankets as batting in between layers of cloth and sewing through.

This small quilt, slated to be a tabletop runner or a wall decoration, is pretty much a whole cloth quilt, except for the addition of a couple of strips on the sides of the red panel, to make it an even match to the reverse side.

Like the colonial quilters, I decorated the whole cloth with an embroidery design. Except I “embroidered” with the sewing machine, using a 2mm satin stitch that is loose in some areas, tight in others. I switched the feed dogs’ normal setting to “free motion spring action” so that the fabric could be moved around under the needle in whatever direction I needed to sew. Then I attached the free-motion spring-action foot (I tried the plain free-motion foot first and didn’t like it a whole lot. The spring-action foot is much better). So this is not one of those machine embroideries that stitched out an automated pattern inside a fixed hoop, it’s all free-motion sewing using the machine’s satin stitch setting. A narrow zig-zag could be used with a similar effect.

To add a special holiday touch, I used gold metallic thread. I’ve had problems with metallic thread shredding during machine embroidery, but this time I wised up and used a special metallic thread needle, and it worked pretty good most of the time.

gold thread and metallic needles, craftsbyjennyskip.com
needle and thread

With a nod to the thrift and industry of our colonial forbears, I used fabric remnants for the front and back whole cloth components, with the green and black strips on the side from a Robert Kaufman Kona cotton roll-up (2 1/2″ x 44″ strips in Dark Colorstory). Love being thrifty! Love to see a cast-off roll of fabric in the remnant bin and wonder what can be done with just that one lone little piece?

Skip looked at the embroidery and said “Wow! Where did you come up with that beautiful design?”

metallic design, craftsbyjennyskip,.com
machine “embroidered” whole cloth

I just turned the little quilt over and said, “Here,” and showed him the motif on the reverse, which I had just traced over with the machine needle, and it duplicated the design on the opposite side in bobbin thread.

tracing design machine embroidery
reverse side

Are you also working on holiday gift items? September’s almost over…