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Little squares quilt

You may (or may not!) remember a post I made a few weeks ago, about a cushion I’d made using a new-to-me method of piecing small squares accurately, using iron-on facing – the tutorial I used can be found here. The tutorial talks of facing with a 2” grid marked on it, and I eventually managed to track some down in the UK, which wasn’t easy, as not many places stock it, and then had a play with it.

I found five fat quarters from the same range in my stash, and cut them into lots of 2” squares, then started making layouts of 7 x 7 squares (that being the width of my ironing board, so easy to do…!)

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I completely failed at taking any sort of progress shots, this is the only one I managed, of the first square. This time I didn’t trim the seams and iron them flat, I simply pressed them to one side, then sewed the seams in the other direction, so there’s only twelve seams per block. You can see the lines of the seams a bit, but that would be eased by making the squares ever so slightly less than 2”, as in places they overlap, which adds bulk to the fold of the seam. I’ll try and remember for next time!

So I made nine blocks, then found an old duvet cover and cut strips of it to make sashing and binding, before backing it with calico for cheapness sake – this was really only me seeing how the blocks behaved in a quilt. With hindsight I’d have been better off using quilting fabric for the sashing, the duvet cover is pure cotton, but it had been washed quite a few times, so it’s lovely and soft, and contrasts rather too much with the stiffer blocks. But it’s not bad, I’d use this method again for quickness and accuracy.

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And this is the finished thing. You can see the sashing rippling slightly.

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I decided to put it over the end of my bed, to try and keep the cat hairs contained.

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Mollie loves it.

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Minnie had a go at lying on it, but really prefers to find the one bit of my bed it isn’t covering, so she can make it nice and hairy. Little minx.

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I just stitched along the seams of the sashing to quilt it. I machined sewed the binding on, from the front, which was only partially successful – I managed to miss the edge in a few places. I think that technique may need refining!

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It’s funny, but the patterns in the blocks show up much better on photos than they do in real life.

I’d used most of the 2” squares I’d cut, but there were a few left over, as well as a few that weren’t quite 2”, and I remembered another tutorial I’d found on Pinterest, to make a cover for a notebook. I again ironed the squares onto facing, in strips this time, and sewed the seams, then inserted them between pieces of calico, added some stiff facing, and ended up with this.

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Which makes a very ordinary A4 hardbacked notebook look much nicer.

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This is the back – you can see the dark blue boards slightly at the edge, which is a shame, but again it’s worse on the photo.

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It has pockets to hold it on.

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And there’s top stitching next to the pieced strip.

So there you go – it’s amazing what you can make with five fat quarters, an old duvet cover, facing, and some calico!

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Remember the crochet throw I picked up again a couple of weeks ago? The one where it had taken me nearly two years to do 30 squares? Well, going round and round the edge of 25 of those squares proved much easier, not to mention more addictive, and it’s finished in just a fortnight!

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I did have a enough yarn for a few more rounds, but I’d run out of the white, and I really wanted it at the edge, to match the white round the central flowers, so I just did a round of double (UK) crochet and it seemed to finish it off okay.

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It was a bit uneven and wouldn’t like quite flat before I blocked it, partly at least due to the fact that the squares in the middle were much more solid than the edging, so I blocked it by giving it a quick soak in the sink, then rinsing and spinning in the machine, and then pinning it out using blocking wires. I put wires round the central section first, pulling it out as much as I could, then put more round the outside and pulling till it laid flat.

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It’s blocked out to about 1.1m square, but it seems bigger somehow. It weighs 770g, and I used Creative Yarns mercerised cotton – one 100g ball of each colour, and three of the white. The central squares are from the Summer Garden pattern from Attic24, but I’m calling mine Spring Garden, because it looks spring-like – much more so than the miserable weather outside!

Now I just need to decide where to put it – on the sofa as above, or possibly on the Poang chair in the conservatory

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Or on the basket chair in the conservatory

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I think Mollie’s going for this option

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She had a good look at it

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Then sat down for a wash, doing that thing cats do where they leave their back leg in the air.

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She’s my gorgeous girl and she knows it.

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I was co-erced into going out for drinks after work last night, which was okay, although I don’t cope with large groups of people in pubs very well, I tend to switch off whilst conversations go on around me. But I’d completely forgotten that there was even a plan to go out, so I’d driven to the park and ride as usual, and ended up having to get the bus home. Now I’m waiting for my kind neighbour to give me a lift to go and retrieve it, so I thought I’d do a quick update whilst I wait.

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There has been some knitting, I started this shawl on Saturday, it’s Morgain, by Stephanie Bold, which I started after seeing this lovely one by GingerLucy pop up in my friends’ feed. I’d been looking for a project for the merino/cashmere/silk fibre I spun a while ago, and this semi-circular shawl seemed perfect. The middle bit’s easy, just increases in stocking stitch, but the transition and the first few charts aren’t really intuitive, it doesn’t really line up with anything on the previous row to check you’re not going wrong, so there’s lots of counting going on. But I think things should get easier soon – I’ll keep you posted.

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I delivered all the baby things I’ve been knitting last weekend, including the modified garter stitch cardigan – which was similar to the baby surprise jacket in that it looked very odd before I attached the top edges together (using a three needle bind off).

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It became very cute after that!

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I knocked up a quick hat to go with it, the colours are a bit off as I took it at night on my parents’ carpet, but I’ve adjusted them as best I can – it’s the same as the cardigan, really. I love the little leaf on the top!

And that’s baby knitting done for the time being, thank goodness – as long as there’s one imminent, I feel I have to knit as much as possible, now I can get back to my own things. Which include spinning – I was supposed to go down to Wingham on Tuesday with my friend Nadine, but they had to cancel as the roof of the greenhouse they use for lessons was leaking, so we’ve rearranged for Monday instead. But it gave me the urge to do some spinning anyway, and I finished off the superwash BFL fibre I started at spinning group the week before.

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This was the Yarn Yard’s Woolfest 2009 special colourway, and it was lovely to spin.

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The bobbins on the right were split into three lengthways, the one on the left was split into six to give shorter runs of colour (it’s bigger than the others because there’s some undyed BFL underneath it, one day I’ll finish that project!)

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I plied it up on Wednesday night, whilst waiting for my iPhone to upgrade to IOS 5 (shiny!) – this shows the striping.

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And I’m very pleased with the final yarn – it’s the thinnest three ply I’ve managed, there’s about 300m/100g, and it’s fingering weight. It should make lovely socks sometime in the near future :)

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Being in a spinning mood, I fished about in my extensive stash of fibre, and found 200g of Falkland, also from the Yarn Yard, which I’ve started spinning much thicker. There’s a bit too much twist going in (I really should be using a lower ratio, but I was trying to spin it quickly) so I’ll try and take it out when I ply. It’s looking good though, and it only took me an hour to spin 50g (the sock yarn took about four hours to spin 50g, by comparison).

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The stole I’m weaving with handspun has come on a bit, but for some reason I can’t seem to get down to it. I think it might be the yarn I’m using for the warp, it’s not ideal, and keeps bunching up when I beat the weft down, no matter how much tension I put on it. I does look okay though, so perhaps I’ll get on with it this weekend.

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And a couple of gratuitous cat photos to finish – they’ve both taken to my quilt on the sofa, usually one gets it and the other paces round waiting her turn, but a few nights ago Min gave up waiting and squashed on too. Mollie promptly washed her face – well, what else are mums for?

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And just to prove exactly how soppy Moll is, this is one of her favourite positions.

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Her tummy is so soft!

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It’s done! I was planning to leave it until Sunday (that being the next day there’s no tennis on…) but my spray glue arrived yesterday (very impressive, since I only ordered it on Sunday), and after I’d spent the day looking at it, I couldn’t resist having a play with it last night. I was only going to stick the layers together, but then I just had a go at sewing one line of quilting, then another, and suddenly it was 10 o’clock and I’d done it all.

It would have been easier if the special quilting gloves with rubber fingers to help move the fabric through the machine had arrived as well, but they’re on back order. The glue definitely helped though, and was much easier than trying to pin all the layers together. I did put a few pins round the edges, just to make sure, but I don’t think I really needed them.

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I trimmed the edges and threw it on the sofa to see how it looked, and within seconds Mollie had given it her seal of approval.

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Before I went to work this morning I did the binding, with proper mitred corners and slanted joins, and I’m very pleased with it.

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The back’s a bit rippled, I did think of ironing it flatter, but I actually quite like the effect of it, so I’ve left it. There were a couple of points where the fabric on the back got a tuck in it – one was at the edge, so I fixed it, but the other was in the middle, so that’s still there. I think if I’d spent more time making sure the backing fabric was completely flat on the floor before spraying the glue on it might have been better. Actually ironing it mightn’t have gone amiss either. Hey ho, you live and learn.

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I do like the backing fabric, it’s the same as the one I used for the cushions.

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And here’s everything together – in all I used two charm packs, half a metre of the two border fabrics, a quarter of a metre of the binding fabric, and about a metre and a half of the backing fabric. All the fabrics are from Moda’s Mill House Inn range.

The quilt’s not perfect, but I’m pleased with it for a first attempt. I don’t think that quilting will ever take the place of knitting in my affections (it’s all a bit tedious, and you can’t watch television whilst you do it) but I did enjoy making it, and I’ll definitely do another at some point. I’d better, I’ve got an awful lot of fabric to get through!

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Saturday Sewing

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I seem to have spent most of the day sewing without having a day’s worth of sewing to show for it. Hmm, perhaps there was some thinking time in there too. And I did read (well, skim) some quilting books too.

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I started by sewing borders onto the quilt top I made last week. But then I googled for instructions on quilting, found this useful blog post, and decided that her advice to use spray adhesive to hold the layers together sounded much easier than trying to pin them, so now I’m waiting for it to arrive in the post.

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So to practice machine quilting in the meantime, I sewed a border onto the two small squares I made last week, then got out the scary-looking walking foot Kerri lent me.

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It actually isn’t as scary as it looks, although the instructions on how to attach it left something to be desired. But I got there, and had a go at stitching in the ditch (like everything else, quilting has its own language, this one means doing a line of stitching along the joins between your fabric.)

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And before long I had this. I used a backing fabric, though it wasn’t strictly necessary for the bag I was planning, but I wanted to see how it worked.

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I did the same with the other side, then sewed them together and mitred the corners (the purple line was nearly a disaster, as I completely forgot how to mitre corners, and sewed across the corner with the fabric flat – thankfully I turned it the right way out to admire it before I cut the corner off!)

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It looked a bit messy from the inside, but the outside was taking shape.

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Mollie supervised as usual.

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I made a couple of quilted handles and a button loop, and sewed them in place before I sewed the lining in (I somehow forgot to take a photo of the lining process, but basically I made another bag the same, but with one of the corners not sewn up, put the main bag inside it, sewed round the top, pulled it the right way out through the inside corner, and topstitched round the top edge.)

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And voila! A quilted bag.

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In other news, I finished the spinning I mentioned the other day.

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210g of aranish weight merino silk blend. I’ve not measured the length yet, but there should be enough for a nice cowl for the winter.

I also finished the green top I was making, but I’ve not got round to taking photos yet – maybe tomorrow if it’s not raining!

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And I’ve swatched for my new project – the Corinne cardigan from Knitty, in some Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere that’s been lurking in my stash for several years. It should be ideal Wimbledon knitting – lots of garter stitch!

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More Tulips!

My sofas have two sets of loose covers, one red and one cream. When I bought them the idea was the the red ones would be for winter, and the cream ones for summer, and that worked for the first few years, but for the last few the red ones have been on the whole time, partly because I was too lazy to wash and change them (although I did wash the seat cushion covers occasionally), and partly because they’re just more practical.

But before I went away I did a laundry marathon, washing both sets (the cream ones were a bit musty from having been in the loft for years) and changed them over. They do look nice and summery, but I tend to sit with my feet up most of the time, so the cream cushions get dirty very quickly. I put a knitted blanket over the seat as a temporary measure, but it’s made of Noro Kureyon which isn’t exactly a cool yarn, so I was looking for something lighter.

Then at the car boot sale last week I found a man selling John Lewis fabric remnants, and bought just under two metres of this lovely tulip fabric for £2 – bargain! It’s a cotton/linen mix, and whilst there are a couple of faults in it, it’s perfect for a sofa throw.

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I’d cleared the dining table on Sunday, as my parents have been over for a couple of days, and they don’t appreciate eating off trays whilst the table is covered in clutter, so I had room to get my long-neglected sewing machine out.

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I ironed the hems before I sewed them, and I even did mitred corners, just because I can really. They do look neater than just folding both sides over and sewing through all the layers, even if they are a bit fiddly.

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It’s not quite as wide as the sofa, but it covers the bits I sit on, which is the main thing. It’s long enough to go over the back of the sofa, so hopefully that’ll keep it in place.

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The only problem is that my nice Ikea cushions don’t really go with it – it might be time to make some cushion covers too…

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In knitting news, I’ve been plodding on with the Primrose top I wrote about last week, I’ve done the back and am about two thirds of the way up the last part of the front.

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And in cat news, I’m pleased to report that Mollie had no ill effects from her fight at all – thanks to everyone who sent good wishes. She does still smell a little ripe though.

I had to take them both to the vets on Monday for their annual jabs, and Min did make us laugh. I put both their boxes on the table, facing each other, then took the lid off Min’s because she wouldn’t come out. The vet prodded her and she scowled at him (maybe she remembered that he was the man who shaved her fur off a couple of weeks ago!), then as he turned away to get her injection, I opened Moll’s box to get her out. At which point Min shot out of her box and into Moll’s. With Mollie, who squeezed herself out looking indignant. So the vet did Mollie (who was completely unbothered by the whole thing), then took the lid off the other box to do Min. I started to put the first lid back on, and Min shot back into that box. Thankfully she’d had her jab by that point! I think it’s safe to say she didn’t want to be there…

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Not so rosy

Remember I was moaning about doing a picot cast on? Well, now I’m moaning about the whole project.

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It’s Primrose, from Louisa Harding’s new Ianthe book, and I’m using the Debbie Bliss Amalfi yarn I bought last week at Coldspring Mill, and I think that’s about three quarters of the problem. It’s a cotton/viscose/linen/silk blend, so there’s absolutely no give in the yarn, and it’s a very loosely spun four ply construction.

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Each of the plies is made up of several smaller plies – two are two ply, and two seem to have five plies, so that’s about 14 plies in total, all just waiting to catch in your needle tip when you try to do any sort of lace stitch. Or picot cast on. To call this yarn splitty is like calling the sea wet, and I don’t normally have a problem with yarns splitting.

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I thought that things might get better when I got past the pretty row of eyelets for the ribbon under the bust, and onto the stocking stitch top, but whilst the yarns’s not splitting any longer, it’s still hard work to knit with – my fingers are hating me! Of course none of this is helped by the fact that I knit tightly, I really should know better than to start something like this by now.

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This is how it should look once it’s done – there is also a sleeveless version, but I think my shoulders need sleeves!

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My other gripe is the lace pattern. On the right side, you do a column of purl stitches, with three knit stiches for the lace column, and on the wrong side it’s all knit, with a (yo, double decrease, yo) combination to make the lace. But you run into the problem you get with the loose stitch at the side of a rib, and it’s making the lace column sit very much to one side of the column, with a much bigger bar on one side than the other.

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This shot from the wrong side shows the problem – see that loose stitch at the left hand side of each knit column? With hindsight I could perhaps have done something with twisted stitches to tighten it up, but by the time I realised I’d done too much to rip out in such unforgiving yarn. With even more hindsight I should have swatched the pattern, but I only swatched for gauge on the stocking stitch area. Hey ho, I’ll call it a design feature and no one but me will ever notice, I’m sure.

I should mention that I’ve changed the double decrease from k3tog through the back loop (which was just never going to happen in this yarn) to a slip one-k2tog-psso combination, which is easier, although the k2tog bit is still a bit of a challenge, and sometimes I have to put my needle into the stitches purlwise to open them up before knitting them, which is slowing me down somewhat. But I don’t think that changing the decrease has made the yarnovers change size, I think it’s down to the rib on the other row.

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In other news, Mollie went out all day on Sunday, which isn’t like her, she usually wanders in and out all day, and when she came back her face was a bit swollen on one side. By Monday morning she looked like she’d swallowed a golf ball, poor thing (although it didn’t seem to be bothering her). I couldn’t take her to the vets as it was a bank holiday and they were shut, so I kept her in and she slept all day. But yesterday morning I got up to find that she’d managed to burst the abscess open, thankfully in the hall and not on my bed, and made a huge mess of both herself and the hall floor. We went straight to the vets, who diagnosed a cat bite (I wish she’d learn to run away and not fight, I end up there at least once a year with her after she’s been injured) and gave her a antibiotic injection. That’s another £38 on my vet bill this month, and they’re both due for their annual jabs next week. Eek.

But I’m pleased to report that beyond smelling a little ripe, she seems fine now. I just need to hope she stays away from other cats for a while.

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