Thursday, April 05, 2018

This quilt is driving me crazy

Do you ever have a project that just won't behave?

Prior to the beginning of this year, I really hadn't quilted much at all since 2014. But before that I was fairly prolific so it's not like I'm completely new to this. I get that it will take some time to get reacquainted and I'm not expecting perfection. but my granny square quilt is driving me absolutely insane.

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I was originally going to individually quilt the blocks and assemble them like I did my herringbone quilt. However after that experience i just wasn't ready to do that again so instead I stitched the blocks into 3 rows and am quilting them in 3 parts to be assembled after the quilting is mostly done.

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I made several practice pieces using fusible fleece and a solid fat quarter with no backing. I had no trouble at all maneuvering around with free motion quilting. so it was time to start.

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But the actual quilt just is not going well. I have broken like 10 needles so far and my aurifil 50wt mako thread kept shredding so much that i switched to superior so fine in a different color for the top thread in the middle of the quilt. i at first thought that my 80/12 needles i was using for the practice pieces weren't strong enough so i switched to 90/14 sharps. but those are breaking as well. any time i have to go over a thick seam, my machine just doesn't like it at all.

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I've been trying to quilt for about 1/2 hour every day but last night I only got in about 10 minutes before I broke 2 needles in a row, including my last one in the pack. so now i have 100/16 topstitching needles on their way to me to see if i have better luck with them.

I don't recall having this many issues with breaking needles before. i will say that i've tended to avoid quilting over thick seams in the past. my prior quilts often used stippling or loopy quilting that makes it fairly easy to avoid those spots. I think that I will definitely go back to pressing my seams open for future quilts and I will probably go back to my favorite Quilter's Dream Request batting, as it's the flattest I've used. (For the granny square quilt, I'm using Hobbs 80/20, which is a bit poofier).

I'm just incredibly frustrated right now. I want this quilt to be over and done with (off the machine?) so I can move onto other things. I'm nearly halfway done with the quilting, but I still have so much more to go. I really want to relax and enjoy this experience but it's just not working so far.

Friday, March 30, 2018

On a sock kick

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Socks are my favorite objects to knit. I pretty much always have at least one pair on the needles. I love how portable they are, and how there are infinite variations on construction and pattern so I don't get bored. I know that most people seem to develop their "one true" formula and then stick to it, but I guess I'm a weirdo who likes to constantly try different things. Some of them match and some don't. Some were knit cuff-down, some toe-up. some have heel flaps and gussets, some have short-row or afterthought heels in garter or heel stitch or plain. There are wedge toes and round toes and spiral toes. I ran out of yarn on two of the pairs and had to improvise.

I also enjoy using different needles. My favorites are size 0 (2.0mm) chiao-goo red lace 32". but i've also used hiya hiya sharp circs, addi sockwunder, karbonz DPNs, addi 10" circs, and probably others. i sometimes knit my socks 2 at a time in tandem, but lately i've been sticking to 1 at a time. mostly because i'm too lazy to divide my yarn cake into 2 skeins. i used to knit my socks 2 at a time on one long circ, but i've given that up as too fiddly. i hate having to constantly rearrange the yarns to keep them from getting tangled.

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So far, I've knit 3 pairs of socks a month, so I have 9 finished pairs this first quarter of 2018. You can see individual pictures on my Ravelry page. If I had to pick a favorite so far, it's probably my handspun socks from January. I do heart me some handspun socks.

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I may have a new favorite in progress though. I bought this Wren House Yarns MCN at Indie Knit and Spin in Pittsburgh last weekend. it is knitting up beautifully and the cashmere adds a bit of halo that is just lovely. Normally I like to knit patterned socks with speckled yarn but this one was just so perfect that I wanted to showcase it in simple stockinette.

My general crafting tends to ebb and flow, but sock knitting is my constant...which is lucky since i have so much freaking sock yarn. but that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Herringbone Diamonds

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This is by far the largest quilt I have ever completed. I haven't measured it post-washing, but pre-washing it was 96" square and it weighs about 8 pounds. I was inspired by the quilt as you go herringbone diamonds from Maureen Cracknell's craftsy class. I wanted to construct my quilt differently than her method so I used narrow joining strips based on the craftsy class by Marti Michell.

Each block was pieced as you go with 2.5" strips. The blocks are 8" x 16". I had 2 full shoeboxes when I started of 2.5" strips that were from various jelly rolls and cut from the leftovers of my bag sewing. I now have just one full box, so I used up quite a bit of fabric for the top. The back is made of blue and green stash fabrics. I also used most of the remainder of my blue essex linen for the front strips. I still have a bunch of the white back strip fabric, which is an undyed organic cotton.

The batting is Quilter's Dream Green. It was my first time using poly batting in a large quilt. The fabric did not crinkle much at all after washing, so that's a little disappointing as I'm a big fan of the vintage-y crinkle. But on the other hand the poly batting weighs less than cotton. I can't imagine how heavy this quilt would be if I had used cotton batting. I chose this batting because I had a twin-sized package in my stash that had been there forever. I ended up having to buy a throw-size to finish all of the blocks and I used about 1/3 of it. One weird thing is that my older package was much darker green than the new one. I'm not sure if it changes color over time or if their formula has changed. YMMV.

I won't lie--this project got really boring after awhile. There are 72 blocks and you keep repeating the same steps over and over again so it gets kind of dull. then the joining step is easy but also repetitive. that last long seam when I joined the 2 halves of the quilt together was pretty difficult because of the weight. I would use this technique of joining blocks again, but I would probably save it for larger blocks that don't need as many joins, and maybe also for a smaller quilt that is not as heavy. Everything is a trade-off. I got tired of the joining method, but there's very little chance I'd have been able to complete a quilt of this size using the normal method of basting/quilting. Honestly if I ever get the desire to make another large bed quilt, I might just send it off to a long-armer.

The quilt is definitely imperfect. The angled piecing led to bias edges, which made it hard to keep the blocks square. and the longer the project dragged on, the less I cared about it being perfect. and i won't even mention how wonky the binding is. but i now have a spring/summer quilt that is large enough to fit on my bed. and so i'm happy.

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Tutorial: Joining Quilt As You Go Blocks with Narrow Strips

This tutorial is compiled from a few resources, including the Craftsy class Piece by Piece: Quilt-As-You-Go Techniques with Marti Michell. I have made several adjustments that I think are easier and/or time-saving. Just a note, the scope of this tutorial is on joining blocks with narrow strips, not on how to create quilt as you go blocks. The quilt I'm working on in the tutorial is a herringbone diamond quilt. All of the blocks are already quilted with top/batting/backing and are cut to a finished size of 8" x 16".

For this tutorial, I've already joined all of the blocks into 16" square pairs and now am proceeding to join them in rows of 4 blocks. You need two sets of joining strips. The dark strips on the front are 1 1/8" wide and 1/2" to 1" longer than your blocks. The white backing strips are 1 1/4" wide and 1/2" to 1" longer than your blocks. You should also test that your machine is set up for an accurate 1/4" seam as it's very important in order to get perfect joins. If your machine has the ability to adjust the speed I also recommend slowing down your maximum speed for this process. Going slowly really increases accuracy.

Step 1: Fold one side of the backing strip in 1/4" to the wrong side and press. To facilitate this I use a hera marker and my quilting ruler to crease 1/4" in from one edge before pressing. I find this makes it easier to accurately press a 1/4" fold.

Note: I use 1/4" wide Lite Steam a Seam 2 double-sided fusible tape to hold the backing strip in place. It's important to use the Lite version as the join does get a bit bulky with multiple layers and the heavier version can gum up your sewing machine needle. I am in the process of making a queen sized quilt and I have needed at least 2 packages of tape so far. Although this method does use a lot of this product I have found it simpler and more accurate than pinning or gluing.

Step 2: Stick a piece of 1/4" Lite Steam a Seam 2 tape on the back side of one of your blocks (on the side you are joining) lined up with the raw edge. Tip: if your tape doesn't want to stick to the fabric, apply it with your fingers and then set it with a non-steam iron for just a few seconds. After it cools, peel off the paper backing. Line up your back joining strip with your block right sides together with the raw edge of the strip aligned with the raw edge of your block with just a bit of extra strip length overhanging on each side. The tape should be sticky enough that you can temporarily hold the strip. Readjust as necessary and then press the strip in place with lots of steam. Wait for the strip to cool before proceeding. The backing strip is now held permanently in place and will not shift during the next step.

Step 3: From the front, line up your front joining strip with the raw edge of the block right sides together. Leave a small overhang at the beginning of your block, just like you did on the back as this will be trimmed later. Stitch a 1/4" seam through all layers. I found that I did not need to pin since the back is already held in place with the tape. I lined up the front strip with the edge and stitched, adjusting this alignment every few inches as needed until I got to the end of the strip. Make sure to sew completely off of the block onto the overhang a bit.

Set your seam with a steam iron for a few seconds and then finger press just the front strip away from the block edge. Press (do not iron) the strip, being careful not to distort the edge. The picture below shows what it looks like from the front.

And this shows what it looks like from the back. (This is a different block--I forgot to take a picture of this step the first time around).

Step 4: Next, line up the raw edge of the front strip with the raw edge of your second block, right sides together. I am sorry that this picture doesn't show it super clearly, but you want the two blocks to be stacked on top of one another so that the placement is exact. You shouldn't be able to see the other block at all from a front-facing view, just like the picture. I pinned the strip to the second block in three places, one at each end and one in the middle. I only used three pins because my fingers do most of the work when stitching the seam.

Note: You could use the 1/4" tape to hold the front strip in place on the second block, just like you did in step 2. I chose not to do this because you would end up using twice as much 1/4" tape and the join would start to get bulky with all of those layers. However, if you are very concerned about accuracy you could use the tape instead of pins.

Step 5: Stitch a 1/4" seam on the second side of the front strip and the second block. Because the strip is so narrow I had to hold the first seam out of the way so that the block would move under the feed dogs. You may or may not have to do this. Also, I used my right index finger to keep the raw edge of the front strip lined up with the raw edge of the second block. It's not pictured only because i had to hold the camera with my right hand. You could also use a stiletto for this step instead of your finger. Sew off the edge of the block into the overhang as before.

After both blocks have been sewn to the front joining strip, press the seams flat from the back, then the front. The two seams on the back will almost touch with a narrow channel in between. Finger press the backing strip seam towards the second block, then press to hold a crease. Unfold the backing strip so that the raw edges are exposed.

The back is joined to one side with the hemmed edge ready to fold over the seam.

And the front is joined to both blocks with no seams visible.

Step 6: Stick 1/2" wide Lite Steam a Seam 2 tape in between the 2 seams on the back. The 1/2" tape should just fit in between the stitching lines. Peel off the paper and fold the backing strip over the join making sure that the stitching lines are completely covered by the backing strip. Press into place with a steam iron and wait for it to cool before stitching.

Note: The gap between blocks needs to be stabilized in some way. Other tutorials I have seen call for either hand-stitching the two blocks together (which I hate doing) or using fusible batting tape to close the gap. You would then need to glue or pin baste the backing strip down before sewing. Using double sided tape does this in just one step and the seam gap is permanently fused to the backing strip giving you the stability you need at the join.

Step 7: Stitch in the ditch right in the seam line from the front to secure the folded edge of the backing strip in place. You can instead choose to hand sew the backing strip if you like, but as stated above I prefer to machine stitch. Go slowly and make sure you stay in the ditch all the way down the seam. Note: You may want to use a busy fabric for your front strips like I did just in case you have to go back and stitch a bit on the front strip in order to completely catch the edge on the back with your stitching. I did have to do this a couple of times because I'm not perfect.

Step 8: Trim the overhang even with the blocks on both sides. You now have a finished join! Repeat with your remaining blocks to form rows and then complete the same steps with longer strips to join the rows together into a quilt that is ready to square up and bind.

Here's what it looks like on the back.

And here it is from the front. I hope you have found this helpful.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018



Outfit Details:
Kerrytown by Annie Lupton
Spanx Faux Leather Moto Leggings from Trunk Club
Universal Thread Whisper Woven Backless Slip On Mules from Target

This is pretty much my perfect sweater. I've been wanting a cognac pullover (inspired by Penny's lovely reddish brown coat) all winter. I searched the interwebs for the perfect shade and eventually found it at a yarn store in Canada. Of course my perfect colorway, Nutmeg in Madelinetosh DK was a discontinued color, so it was hard to find a sweater quantity but I finally managed to track one down. I haven't weighed the sweater yet, but I used roughly 5-6 balls of Tosh DK. I alternated skeins for the entire sweater.


I knit the 40" size for a loose-fitting pullover. It has roughly 6 inches of positive ease. I did not knit a gauge swatch (I know, slap on the wrist), but having knit with Tosh DK before I knew that it would grow. I knit the back and front and joined the shoulders and then blocked it. I used the post-blocking info from the body to knit the sleeves and collar. Then I seamed and re-blocked the whole thing.

Modifications: I used tubular cast-ons and bind-offs. I went down a needle-size for all of the ribbing. I converted the shoulder shaping to German short-row shaping and did a 3-needle bind-off to join the shoulders. I changed the sleeves by keeping the texture pattern rather than knitting them in stockinette. I wanted longer, less fitted sleeves, so I did not do any underarm shaping until I reached the cuff. Then I evenly spaced all of my decreases in one row to make more of a bishop-style sleeve with a gathered cuff. I knit about a 4" cuff. I initially wanted a mock-turtleneck collar, but got bored with the ribbing and stopped after 3". I think it looks fine.

The sweater is pretty heavy but it's nice and warm without being overly so. Based on my other experiences with Tosh DK, it will probably pill fairly easily. Honestly this is probably not the best sweater yarn because it's so dense and heavy and prone to pilling but I will enjoy wearing it just the same. The yarn did bleed a bit in the wash but nothing too extreme.


A quick note on the rest of the outfit: I love these faux leather leggings more than is reasonable. They were quite tight at first but after wearing them a few times they've grown more comfortable. I did have to hem them by about 2.5". I was pleasantly surprised to find the shoes at Target. They are relatively comfortable and don't look cheap. Not bad for 25 bucks.

Since I am not able to podcast at this time I'm going to try to be better about blogging. We'll see how it goes.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Storenvy sale: All Quilts 50% off

I anticipate there being many more quilts this year, so it's time to clear out some room. All quilts in the shop are now 50% off. If you've been looking for a special gift there are some amazing deals available. We have mostly baby quilts but a few lap-sized quilts and even a NSFW anti-Valentine's Day wall-hanging. Prices are as marked.

Check it out!


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