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?

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Spring is coming, so I’ll show you my winter jumpers!

I don’t know about where you are, but here in London, my Minoru jacket has taken over regular duty from my winter coat over a week ago, a good sign that spring is on the way. I’m already dreaming up lots of spring outfits, so I thought, what better things to write about on my blog than my winter jumpers? Here they are…

The Blue Jumper

Look, I found some daylight for you! In February!
Look, I found some daylight for you! In February!

Fun things to do with your jumper

This is very loosely based on Francis Revisited, but I think it’s fair to say that the end result doesn’t have much to do with the original inspiration. From the beginning, my gage was off, but this being my first ever knitted jumper, I had no way of fixing it that I understood, so it was a lot of trial and error (loooots of errors) to get it to fit. I think I restarted the jumper three times, then knit it down to the bottom band, bound it off, realized the fit around my chest was way too lose and looked bizarre, opened most of it up again, and started again. This time round, I then started the decreases straight below the armholes – turns out that for my body, the widest point at my chest is my shoulders, not my chest. Let’s not dwell on that 😉 This time round, it fit. By the end I had made it to the bottom of the main body, I was out of energy though, so I just stopped. No arms, no collar. I unceremoniously gave up for the time being, and started Miette instead.

And then? Miette taught me that hey, I can knit sleeves. I started to understand a little bit more about taking up stitches where before, there was only a bound edge, decreases and so on, which alltogether just made me more comfortable tackling the sleeves. So the sleeves I knit. It was slooooow, but I got there eventually. Then I tackled the collar, and I finished it over Christmas – it took far longer than expected. In total, this jumper took me nine months (!) to finish, but at least I finished it. I am glad to report that I actually also wear it. Somewhat disappointingly for this jumper, this winter was not as cold as last winter, but the jumper still filled the chunky-jumper shaped hole in my wardrobe a little bit. Given the current weather, it might be out of the rotation soon though for another, hmm, nine months? Maybe only six.

As you can see, the front and back differ in exactly... nothing. I didn't even block it, and the only way I can tell which way round I'm wearing it is from a small mistake on one of the arms.

As you can see, the front and back differ in exactly… nothing. I didn’t even block it, and the only way I can tell which way round I’m wearing it is from a small mistake on one of the arms.

Last picture of the blue jumper, I promise

 You can see the arms are not as fitted as they could be, but I really didn’t care anymore by then.

So, before really finishing this jumper, I knitted Miette. This was much easier to jump into – Rachel (at MyMessings), at last year’s summer blogger meet-up in London, let me try hers on, so I knew it would fit (she inspired at least three Miette’s to be knit that day! Mine, Ela’s, and Rachel’s.). The instructions were easy to follow, which definitely was a bonus. I didn’t really make any changes, apart from making the sleeves full length.

The daylight above was short lived. Sorry! But, can you see how nicely it goes with Mrs Ladyskater?

The daylight above was short lived. Sorry! But, can you see how nicely it goes with Mrs Ladyskater?

Not much to say about this – the body knit up really quickly, the sleeves took forevaaaaaaaaa (and then longer). I used DROPS Nepal wool, which I’d used before for Andy’s scarf, so I knew my gauge would be spot on without even knitting a proper test square. Yay! I wish I’d made it an inch longer – I do this with my sewing patterns, but strangely didn’t even think of it for Miette! I’m currently thinking of re-blocking it to make it longer, but really, I haven’t done that yet, so apparently it’s not that important. The next one will be longer. And yes, I’m boring and predictable enough to want another one of these (D’uh, I bet you expected that. After all, this is me!).

Better view of the lace pattern

Better view of the lace pattern. The wool was fairly thick, so you don’t see the pattern as well as on some of the other Miette’s I’ve seen.

Miette neatly fills the gap in my wardrobe for short jumpers and cardigans – I’m pleased to report that it works excellently with my Cambie dress, as well as with my lady skaters. Sadly, that’s about it, and it doesn’t really work with anything else. Woops. At least it does one thing well, and will probably force me to make more cambies/other high waisted dresses.

I’m currently blocking and seaming and then knitting the last bits of my new knit. When working on it in my lunchbreak, my colleagues have been joking that by the time it’s finished I won’t get to wear it much. Being out of synch with the seasons in knitting and blogging seems to be a pattern for me – anybody else do that? Are you still finishing a winter coat, jumper, scarf or hat? Some nice warm wooly skirts? Or in Australia and just getting round to that summer dress or those shorts? Spill the beans, and we can share some motivation!