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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Completed: Minoru!

So, I started writing this post once, then my PC crashed and deleted it. Then I re-wrote it, and couldn’t upload any pictures. Third time lucky? Sorry for the long silence!

I finished my Minoru about two or three weeks ago, but I couldn’t blog about it before because first, I didn’t have any pictures; then I had too much work and too little time, plus I was busy running around and gallivanting and generally being in love with my Minoru, then it was Easter and I had to eat chocolates, and then my PC crashed.

Making a Minoru was my Sewlution for 2013 (see here for Karen’s original post). I dithered for a long time of what material to make it from? Wool? Cotton Twill? Something else? In the end, I settled on a cotton twill, because I wanted quite a heavy jacket that would be perfect for transitioning between summer jackets and my winter coat. It turned out just as I wanted:

Very very snuggly jacket

Very very snuggly jacket

I found the perfect heavy twill on Goldhawk Road (£3/m), then bought some flannel for interlining for added warmth. It was arctic here while I sewed this – I had a hard time persuading myself I didn’t need to add two layers of interlining! The lining is a silk I had in my stash (I thought it might make a blouse/top, then realized just in time I never wear patterned tops, like, ever), also bought at Goldhawk Road for £3/m. I would love to tell you from which shop it was, but I can never remember the name – it’s the one where the cellar is an Aladdin’s cave, and the top floor has the wools and suiting, and the lovely lady answers all my questions with infinite patience. Classic Fabrics, maybe?

Making it took a very long time, and before making it, I planned it in my head for an even longer time. I started it in February, and then sewed in very small increments. I started with the small things – secret pocket, hood, collar and zips – and had a few small hitches where I waited for different zips and a zipper foot to arrive. My original 18” hood zip turned out too short, so I re-ordered, and then also decided, after much dithering, that I didn’t like the idea of a black and metal zip I’d originally bought for the front.

Zipper time!

Zipper time!

Now the front zip is navy-blue that goes with the lining, and opens both ends. Thank you to my friend Ines, who patiently listened to my colour confusion and recommended the blue zip, as well as dispelling my doubts about the buttons.

I did make a few changes.

  1. You might have noticed – I added an additional front placket to hide the zip. I didn’t like the idea of an exposed zipper, that was reason one. Also, did I mention that it was really cold here while I sewed this?The thought of a little bit of extra cold air stealing in through the exposed zip was unbearable. On went the front placket. I cut it exactly twice as wide as the normal ones, interfaced it (not sure it was needed – it’s maybe almost too stable now), sewed three sides shut,
    Front placket, close-up from the inside.

    Front placket, close-up from the inside.

    and understitched the inside of it to make it behave,which worked a treat – the placket is now very well behaved. Therefore, it also got some top stitching. I then added buttonholes before adding it to the jacket together with the front right placket. It worked perfectly fine – I was just extra careful when putting the lining and the jacket together, as there’s a slight danger of stitching the placket to where it shouldn’t be, but it all worked fine. It also changed the topstitching a little bit, but nothing major.

  2. Pocketses!

    Pocketses!

    There’s pockets in the side seam. They are lined with silk, and make me very very happy everytime I put my hand into them. In the last two weeks, with the cold winds, they’ve been a lifesaver. I used pockets from the Crescent skirt, I think – it was lying around – and just smoothed out the corners. I interlined the silk with cotton to give it some warmth stability.

  3. It’s interlined! Flannel at the front and back, and cotton in the sleeves (I didn’t want it too warm). Beyond adding warmth, they also added some body to the silk – without this, the combination of slippery silk and massively heavy cotton twill would have been weird. Sewing the collar pieces together was hard work without the interlining!
  4. The seam allowance on the sleeve side seam and side seam to just below my breasts is only 1cm, instead of 1.5cm. I basted it first, and realized there was just a touch of not enough room for my massive shoulders  and arms (hello, swimming). Also, with interlining, I was worried about extra thickness. I’m glad I did this – it still doesn’t look massive at the arms, and I can move.

    Bias-taped seam

    Bias-taped seam

  5. Both pieces of the collar are lined (in the lining and the outside), and the seam stitching the hood into the collar and to the body of the jacket, I finished with some left-over bias tape, so that there is no raw seam in the hood (see also Karen’s words of warning about this, here and here).

There’s a lot of things I learned during this project – for example,

  1. I can sew zips into things! My £3 amazon zipperfoot works! I was very skeptical about this when the foot arrived, but it works just fine. I didn’t have to rip out any zips at all. Amazing.
  2. Topstitching is really really hard. I do not like it much. Mainly because I’m a perfectionist and get really upset about small irregularities. I cheated in some areas on this jacket, and added a second row of topstitching, so the irregularities would be hidden more. I think it worked. There’s a few detail shots below where you can see.
  3. My seam ripper is my very best friend, like, ever. Honestly, it did so many minutes with me… so many seams it became acquainted with intimately. There was a lot of ripping out in this jacket, most of it due to my occasional idiocy. I should really stop misplacing the thing, or at least buy two more.
  4. Speaking of which… I learnt that it takes two seconds to mess up a button hole, and half an hour at least to take it out again. I practiced my button holes, to make sure the size was right, and the thread tension and stitch length and overall look… I practised cutting them open, and measured obsessively where they should be. Then, on the first button hole, my machine had a hiccup. The next half hour, my seam ripper and me hung out.
  5. Patience pays off. There were many times I wasn’t convinced it was going to be a jacket I love, but I persevered, put it away when all my wonky topstitching was getting on my nerves, and kept giving myself time and not rushing it. It really worked – I’m glad I took the time over it, for now I absolutely love it. And hey, even the buttonhole turned out fine eventually!

The biggest challenges for me:

  1. Buttonholes. D’oh. They were my first proper ones.
  2. Patience? Cutting out three layers of fabric for ten hours, even though I hate cutting?
  3. Putting in zippers. Again, first ones with new foot – I am amazed!
  4. Topstitching. It’s haaaaaard, did I mention? I also tried a triple stitch for the top stitch, which felt like my sewing machine was cantering, with the results similarly wonky to me trying to sew on a horse cantering. That also took a long time to rip out!
  5. Topstitching curves. My hood almost had me in tears.
  6. Stitching in the ditch for the hood – my lining kept getting caught in this. Eventually I topstitched my first collar topstitching again to keep the lining in check, then added the stitching in the ditch. It’s not perfect – I might go back and change it later on, but for now, it’s ok.
  7. Choosing the buttons. Man, can I dither about the details. Actually, just make that detail obsession/perfectionism.

Enough lists. Here’s more photos.

Lovely details: Stitching in the ditch and the result of the slight failure, topstitching on the hood, also slightly wonky. amazing hood zip which worked, lining and secret pocket, and the hem, with some beautiful, unintended tucks.

Lovely details: Stitching in the ditch and the result of the slight failure, topstitching on the hood, also slightly wonky. amazing hood zip which worked, lining and secret pocket, and the hem, with some beautiful, unintended tucks.

And yes, I love it to bits. When it all came together, it was amazing. I wanted to sleep in it (apparently, that’s not acceptable, said the boyfriend). Also, I’m getting a ton of compliments on it, which is really really nice for my sewing confidence! And now it’s finally a bit warmer, I can wear it without freezing to death 🙂 It’s perfect for the current conditions.

So, in March 2013, I can say that my sewlution is done, and that I’m very very happy with it! Also, though, I’m happy it’s done. I didn’t pick up a project for quite a while afterwards. I needed to recover a bit 🙂

Completed Sewlution