Breaking news: The Very Slow Quilt is finished!

Breaking news: The Very Slow Quilt is finished!

Readers, I hope you fell off your chairs at that. You read it right: The quilt-guilt got the better of me, and I finished the Very Slow Quilt. Lo and Behold:

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Just for context – I started this quilt at least in 2012, if not 2011. It’s losely based on Elizabeth Hartman’s book, “The practical guide to patchwork”. Mind you, I could have read more of her book before actually starting the quilting, or the binding, or… Anyways.

In the end, it didn’t take as long as I’d thought it would to put the quilt top together. When sorting through my fabrics (yet again), I found it and realized I was being ridiculous: a) I had almost everything ready cut out to finish it, b) it was really getting on my nerves, c) it was the perfect size to finish up as a baby blanket, in happy colours, and d) I had a nephew on the way. Happy coincidences!

But, of course I couldn’t just make my life easy. First, I finished off the front, which was fine, apart from the fact that I used scraps, and some of them were very very soft and became distorted in this process. Grrr. Secondly, I decided that just using plain fabric on the back would be boring. So, I settled on some left-over fabrics I had from pj-bottoms (nice and soft), but wanted it spruced up with colourful things. So, I took some cookie cutters and traced them off and appliqued this to the back:

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Now, this would have been easy, had I bothered to read the instructions on appliquing in my great quilting book first. Spoiler: I didn’t, so they were a little misbehaved. We got there in the end, and I hear babies aren’t all about the detail, so we’re probably alright. And who knew I had so many bizarre cookie cutters? Or that they’d be so useful for sewing?

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But, the biggest hurdle was actually the quilting itself. My sister and husband live in a flat with wooden and tiled floors, so I wanted this blanket to be a super-soft crawling-and-lying-on-the-floor blanky. So, I picked extra thick wadding in John Lewis. Now, while I can attest to the fact that it’s supersoft, let me tell you, when you’ve never quilted before, starting with something superthick is probably not the best way to learn. The stitches sunk in so much they distorted the fabric, the back puckered, there were folds, then the fabric didn’t match up. I don’t think I’ve ripped out so many stitches in a long time. It probably didn’t help that this was my first time working with a walking foot, and I’m not sure that my walking foot and my feed dogs feed the fabric through at the same rate. In the end, I stitched around the animals to hold everything in place, stitched around the rim, and realized that pins are my best friends ever, apart from when they disappear into the very soft cotton with loose weave I should never have used in the first place. I had nightmares about my nephew choking on the one needle I might accidentally loose track of. I also walked around for a few days with a lot of pinpricks and scratches in my hands from trying to get the quilt all done (and not loose needles). Once it was vaguely well-behaved and together, I then quilted in straight lines along the seamlines. I was a very happy bunny when I was done. It’s still not perfect (you can see the sides and corners are a bit wobbly), but I decided that it’s perfect for my nephew-blanket, and it didn’t have any leftover pins in it in the end.

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The stitching around the animals from the front

I used some leftover wax print cotton for the binding. Stitching this down by hand to finish it off was also a challenge – I’m not convinced it’ll hold up, because the fabric on the back is very soft, and it didn’t seem to be very tight. I assured my sister that the blanket comes with a lifetime guarantee, so I hope it’ll be ok. If I ever do another quilt, I’ll need to work on my corners though – they’re a bit wonky. Ahem.

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Overall, I’m really happy with it though – I wanted it to be supercheerful for my nephew, and happy colours, and I think that worked. It’s fluffy and cosy for him to lie around on, colourful enough that a few babyjuices won’t ruin it immediately, and hopefully a little bit robust as well. It even matches his new mobile plaything over the bed:

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He’s tested it and given it his approval. Horrah! And the very slow quilt is now no longer in my stash. Double Hoorah!I have a nephew – Many Hoorahs!

This quilt, even though small, made me appreciate what my mum told me: Quilting is a lot of work. (Hats off to all you quilters!). If there ever is a next quilt for me, I’ll stick to very big squares. And instructions.

Now, I can’t be the only one with a project that took multiple years (and wasn’t couture) – which skeletons lurked in your closets that you eventually finished off?  How many years did you manage to drag it out over? And was it as bad as my quilt-guilt and Very Slow Quilt?

New sewing corner and stash diet 2014

As hinted at in my last post, my stash is getting a bit out of hand. I had some time this week to sort it out and start getting a sewing area organised, so I’m mainly set up now, and also realized just how much stash I have. Yikes. Hence, the stash diet!

Back story to the tidying up: I’m making Andy a coat, handstitching was required, and I was looking for my beeswax to make sure the threads don’t get tangled. I know I had some, but couldn’t see it, and it wasn’t where it was meant to be (story of my life, har har). So, I started digging around my sewing boxes, and figured I might as well tidy them up while I was at it. I found a lot of boxes with a lot of fabric in it. It was somewhere between very motivating and very scary. And yes, I did find the beeswax eventually, but since I couldn’t find it in the flat, I tried to find some in shops while running errands. After I’d hunted for an hour around West London (no, Holland and Barrett does not sell it, nor does Boots, pharmacists, flower shops or shoe shops) I found some in the hardwear shop around the corner from our flat. The irony. And then, of course, as soon as I walked through the door, I found my other beeswax.

But I disgress. Here’s my new sewing space – ta daaaa!

New sewing corner.

New sewing corner.

I’m quite surprised that it fit so well. I don’t even mind that I’ll have to set up/tidy away every time now, since the sewing machine is so close to the table. Generally, it’s still not quite as tidy as I’d like it to be, and I really need to get rid of the shoe cartons. But hopefully I can fix that in the next two months. If you look at it from the doorway as above, you don’t notice, but walk around the table and you will find two large bins full of fabrics:

Fabric galore, oh, and look, my new thread rack!

Fabric galore, oh, and look, my new thread rack! My sewing machine has a plan of things to sew stuck to its cover so I don’t get  distracted when sewing stuff from the stash.

My aim of the stash diet is to get this down to two very comfortable bins. They have to close, and I’d love it to include the quilt of slowness (or for me to finish that). No, I don’t get to swap the blue bin for a bigger one. No impulse fabric purchases that jeopardise this aim until they fit into the bins. That’s rule number one. Rule number two: no new patterns until at least February, potentially and progress dependent even March. And then I only get to buy new patterns if I have a realistic chance of making it in the foreseeable future (next year does not count!). Only exception: I desperately need some loungewear, so I can make an exception for both fabric and pattern for that, if I must. Come March, come spring, I should have most of my big pieces of stash sewn up if it goes to plan, so I get to reconsider then. As long as I keep it to two bins.

Apart from that, you might have noticed I am now the proud owner of a thread rack thanks to my lovely sisters – it actually really helps my organisation of sewing stuff. I never realized I owned three bog spools of navy thread before… Bonus: I think it looks pretty, and it makes the corner a bit more sewing, and a bit less just another corner.

And lastly, one of the little boxes in sewing corner now houses these little cuties, which were a Christmas present from Andy:

Better get my hand sewing skills up to scratch...

Better get my hand sewing skills up to scratch…

Now I’m all organised and set to go, I guess I’d better start on some sewing and stash busting. And hey, we’re only a week into 2014, so it still feels vaguely as if I’m hitting the ground running. Yay!