Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Have you ever hated a fabric so much?

Dear friends,

I want to ask you a question. Have you ever hated a piece of fabric so much you lie in bed, night after night thinking up ways to kill it? Like wait till it's asleep and use a pillow to slowly snuff the life out of it? Have you hated the way the fabric smells and looks, the wrinkles on the face cloth, the smug looks it gives you, practically everything about the fabric irritates you. And of course how the fabric keeps forgetting to put the dirty dishes in the sink. I mean, just FOUR more steps and you reach the sink. Umm, where was I? Yes, the fabric I hate so much...

A long time ago, I was very into linen cotton fabric. I would buy them mostly for embroidery which I incorporate in my pouches which I used to sell at craft markets. One day I was at Chinatown looking for a solid colour linen cotton but I couldn't find any. Most times I would walk away but on that regretful day, I allowed myself to be talked into buying this butt ugly fabric. What was I thinking? Witchcraft must have been involved! Yes, it had the nice colour of linen which I love but look what's splattered all over it. Duck shit! Bits and pieces and chunks and chunks of duck shit. Try as I did, I couldn't use the fabric for a pouch or a bag. I did use small pieces of it for godknowswhat but anyway I had around 3/4 yard of it left and it sat on my sewing table for years. Every year I kept telling myself I must get rid of it once and for all. I have to use it somehow. But nothing. At the beginning of this year I washed it and it stayed hung in the laundry room for a few months. Finally 2 weeks ago, I washed the fabric because I decided the best way to kill the fabric was to use other fabric to hide it. So yes, I was going to make a quilt out of it.

I wanted the quilt to be portrait style so I needed to cut the fabric because some of it had been cut out and the shape was irregular. So the bottom was made up of 2 pieces joined together. But the important thing is I used every bit of the fabric.

I chose to use a simple cat applique (this one) because I wanted to use a needle turn applique technique instead of my usual raw stitch technique. I didn't sit down to plan this quilt as I was lazy. Instead I decided to make it as I go. I started with the big blue cat on top. Next I added the two cats at the bottom. I thought the cats looked too serious so I added the two floating cats on top and finally the tails drove me nuts so I added the blue cat in the middle to balance it out. I was quite pleased with the final arrangement of the applique and wouldn't change anything if I had to do it all over again. I eyeballed everything so it's not 100% proportionate. It's okay. I'm not one bit bothered by it. Well, I said I used needle turn applique technique but in reality I used my fingers to turn under. I don't know how people use their needles to do the turning. For me I feel so clumsy. My fingers manage to do a good job. For the really tight corners or angles, I use tweezers.

I think it's obvious I belong to the show-your-stitches camp. It only took me 3 afternoons to complete the applique. I did it while watching k-drama. The only painful part about the applique is I used my new fabric stash which I bought this year. I have so much fabric but I couldn't find anything else that I felt would be able to overwhelm the background fabric. My plan was to go colourful.

I had all these bits and pieces of fabric left after the applique was cut out so I wanted to use them up as borders. I had to pull in a few pieces of other scraps to make up the border. I notice that I tend to use a lot of blues in my quilts.

I found some batting in the storeroom and joined up some of my mother's batik to make up the back. Because the size of the quilt was larger than what I was used to handling I decided to spray bast the layers together. What a chore. There was a lot of squatting and kneeling because I had to do it on the floor. And it was smelly. I wore a mask but I got a headache afterwards.

After all that, I had to quilt the layers together. Guess what? I decided to do it by hand. I used a Sashiko thread and Sashiko needle. Still it didn't go quite as quickly. I wanted the thread to blend in more but the only colour I had that was close enough to linen was this copper colour.

Finally, the binding. My first choice was indigo. But that would mean having to go out to buy it and that would defeat the purpose of this whole exercise which is to use the fabric I already own. Finally I decided the next most pleasing choice would be this bright orange. I had found it in the storeroom, about 1 yard's worth. When I first started sewing bags around 2007, I wasn't as knowledgeable about fabric and I would buy these cheap poly-cotton fabric to practice my sewing. Well, this fabric is what's left from that "era".

The finished quilt is 28" across and 29.5" tall. It's not nearly as large as I imagined but the size was dictated by the fabric I hated. Now that the quilt is complete, I no longer see the background fabric. Instead I see the lovely cats. I think I did a really good job of "killing" the fabric. The one thing I would change is the back. I wished I had used a playful cats or even dogs fabric print but I had to stick to my principles!

I showed the quilt to my kids and both of them said SO CUTE! What do you think?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Bird On A Branch Quilt


I'm still in the use-up-fabric-scrap business. This is my latest finish. It's called Bird On A Branch. I couldn't think of a better name. This tiny quilt took a long time to complete. It also taught me a good lesson.

First of all, I wonder if anyone could tell from the quilt, which piece of fabric started the whole thing going? I'll tell you. It's the piece of calico the sun was appliqued on. I've been clearing my storeroom and found this piece of calico that had yellowed not in a good antique-y way. Most people with common sense would throw it into the garbage bin. But I'm not most people. I decided to save the fabric. One day, I happened to be at Spotlight and I saw that a fabric paint was on sale. I mean 3 bucks! So I bought a bottle (it's only 45ml), went home and set to work some magic on the yellowed calico. Um, it turned out, it takes a lot of paint to actually see any colour on the fabric. On top of 2 pieces of calico, I also had a piece of white-now-yellowed cotton canvas I wanted to rescue. I managed to cover 1 piece of calico and 1 piece of canvas cotton with blue paint. There was a small amount of paint left and most people with common sense would throw it away. But I'm not most people. I decided to use it to paint the last piece of calico. Unfortunately, the amount of paint was too little so I added more water. When I was done, the calico looked neither blue nor anything.

So I practically spent time and money working on a fabric that I should have thrown away in the first place. I had no choice but to use it somehow because I had increased the value of the fabric. I dug into my new fabric stash and found some lovely fabric that I felt could work patched together with the fugly calico. I looked in my applique box and found a ready to go bird on a branch applique. Is it just me? I have lots of ready to go applique lying around. They are my applique UFOs.

I felt the patchwork needed some running lines. Oops. I may have gone slightly overboard. At this point I felt rather discouraged because I was starting to hate this project. And so much work had already gone into it!

I pushed on and kept adding elements until I decided enough was enough. Yup, the sun and 2 giant leaves were a wink at Janet Bolton. I had to use couching stitch to sew the sun's rays as the running lines were too overwhelming and I needed to use a very thick yarn meant for knitting. I left the bird and branch a bit simple because the entire applique had fusible web and I didn't fancy sewing through the layers.

Originally the sun was left plain but I felt it needed some embroidery (blanket stitch) to give it texture because looking at the whole quilt I see texture throughout.

If you're wondering why I left out the borders, it's because I totally forgot about it. I was so preoccupied with rescuing the calico that the possibility of adding borders only popped into my head much later. By then, I thought the quilt had so much going, a border wasn't necessary. I finished off the quilt with a double binding using this tute as reference.

In case you're wondering where you've seen the binding fabric, it's from this bag pattern. Which means I've used up nearly all the fabric for the bag pattern. Only a small piece of scrap is left. Nowadays I get ridiculously happy when I (almost) use up any fabric.

For the backing, I used some of the batik scraps my mother had given me. The weave of the batik is very tight, so quite unpleasant to sew through. And lastly, I included a pocket to hang the quilt. It's a very small quilt, 11" by 12". Am I incapable of handling larger quilts?

After all the time and effort I had poured into this quilt, I'm happy to say I'm growing fonder and fonder of it every day. Thank goodness otherwise I'll be pretty mad at myself. Next time, I won't try to save everything. I'm giving myself permission to throw some stuff away.

Monday, September 16, 2019

How Many Thimbles Do You Own?

I have a total of TEN thimbles. To my knowledge, I only bought one. I don't know how I acquired the rest. For years and years, I resisted using thimbles. Usually I tape a small piece of masking tape over the finger I want to protect and that was my thimble. Lately though, I've started using thimbles when hand sewing. What triggered it was hurting my hand - my maker's hand. Thimbles I've realised are pretty useful. They don't just protect the skin, they make me think about which muscle I want to use or not use. Like if I were sewing without a thimble I would use a lot of fine muscles to pull the needle through. With a thimble, you have the option of using your wrist muscle to push the needle through. As I age, I start to think more about my muscles...

I'm not sure if this is called a Tailor's thimble. It's the most common thimble. I have one but it doesn't fit my fingers. If I use a plaster to tape it to my middle finger, I can use it. But I haven't quite got the hang of it. I think it's a fit issue. If the thimble is more snug, it'll probably be easier using it. Watch this video and this other video really opened my eyes to thimbles.

I have a sashiko thimble which I've used on and off.

The only issue I have with this thimble is your fingers get all weird due to the position of the thimble.This thimble doesn't work if you use a small needle. Watch this video if you're wondering how to use this thimble.

Since I sew a lot of running stitches I thought I had better find a thimble that I'm more comfortable with because using a gigantic sashiko needle is no joke.  This is the thimble I bought. It's Prym Ergonomics Thimble which I bought for SGD4.50. I bought size S thinking I have petite fingers but I should have bought M to fit my middle finger. Anyway, size S fits my ring finger so it's all good.

This is how I use my Prym thimble. I love it. It's the best SGD4.50 I've ever spent.

I have this thimble meant for the middle finger, I think. I haven't quite got the hang of it. I use it for small needles. I'm thinking I wear it too high. I'll try wearing it lower and see if it works.

And this thimble is insane. It's looks so interesting but my brain refuses to understand how to use it.

Anyway, these are the thimbles I don't want because I either have duplicates or can't quite figure it out. If you live in Singapore and want these, let me know and I'll send them to you.
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My Applique Patterns

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