Twenty Times Lace

April 15, 2015 at 10:19 am | Posted in Lace, Patchwork | 3 Comments
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To celebrate our twentieth exhibition this fall, my quilt group has come up with a special challenge project this year. As part of a fabric donation, we got a considerable length of lace which we decided would be the common material to use. In addition, the colour scheme used should be natural colours from beige to brown, making a nod to the 20th anniversery traditionally being the porcelain anniversary, and our lace having a beigish colour anyway. To top it off, the number 20 should play a role in some way, and this was the part that got me into trouble, since the size requirement of 40×40 cm hadn’t been changed.

Being interested in lace of all kinds, you can’t give me some lace and not have me think “I’m going to use 20 different pieces of lace here!” Collecting materials, I acquired my mom’s collection of mostly machine laces, looked which of my collection of handmade samples would be useful, and then tried to figure out how to put 20 different pieces into 40×40 cm. Turns out in order to not run out of space, I would have to keep things fairly simple. My original ideas where much more elaborate, with lengths of lace interweaving between the horizontal and vertical directions. But as is often the case, constraints ended up making it all better: the simple layout leaves space to show off the laces themselves, which was supposed to be the point, after all. So here’s the finished piece:

20 Times Lace - finished

And since it’s the laces themselves that are the interesting part of this piece, I’ll do a detailed writeup of what you’re seeing here in the following couple of posts. As a teaser, here’s the left side all numbered so we know what we’re talking about.

20 Times Lace left side

Which lace do you like best, and why? Which one would you like to know more about? Mind you, since some of it has been gifted to me, I may have not much information on it either.

Adventures in Irish Crochet Lace

March 14, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Crochet, Lace | 2 Comments
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I haven’t been writing about lace (or anything else — sorry for that) for a while, but for one of my current projects I do need lace — lots of it. I’ll write more about that project in a later post, but what’s important for the moment is that I want to include as many different kinds of lace as feasible. And of course I’m using that as an excuse to try something new to me. For this project I need small pieces of everything, so it is a perfect opportunity to experiment.

I have long been fascinated by Irish crochet lace and the ways it imitates the older and more elaborate bobbin and needle laces. You can see a few examples here and here from the V&A’s excellent online collection. Especially in the second image you can see clearly how Irish crochet lace is built: Individual motifs, often flowers or leaves, are worked and then connected by a background. While I have made some of the motifs before, I never tried to make a connected piece of lace with this technique.

For a pattern to use, I needed to look no further than my own hard disk, which houses a fine collection of digitized public domain needlework books. The one I ended up using is Thérèse de Dillmont’s “Irish Crochet Lace”, which I originally downloaded from the On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics. There’s lots of stuff there, not only about weaving but about all kinds of needlework. There doesn’t seem to be a way to link directly to specific entries, but the books are sorted by author, and you can find the book I used under the letter D.

Helpfully, the book has draft patterns for several lace edgings, and given the space constraints on the piece I am doing, I choose the narrowest edging available. Printing out the pattern and enlarging it to the size needed was the easy part. I made the individual pieces first, and then matched the pattern to their size, since a huge disadvantage of using old sources is that I generally have no idea what the thread sizes they recommend for a pattern actually look like. I used pretty much the thinnest thread I had on hand anyway, otherwise things would have gotten bigger than I needed.

So, how to get the pattern actually made up? The instructions in the book were not very extensive, so I went with my first instinct and set the pattern up like I would do for needle lace: Attach the pattern to a piece of cardboard and sew the ornaments down where they belong.

Irish Crochet Edging - PatternThat turned out to be a lousy idea, since it is nearly impossible to crochet next to the cardboard, as opposed to sewing like for needle lace. I also realized that I really needed to use a thinner thread for the connections for things to look even remotely good. This is where I was when I gave up in frustration:

Irish Crochet Edging - this doesn't workI ended up throwing the whole thing into the proverbial corner for a while, pretty much until I really needed the finished piece to go on with the whole project. At that point, I came up with what turned out to be a great solution: not only did it work, it saved me an additional step later.

For the project in question, I was going to attach the lace pieces to a dark ground fabric. So, why not use the ground fabric as the pattern? Being much more flexible than cardboard, it should be much easier to crochet on top of it, and I would end up with the lace already attached where I needed it anyway. I transferred the pattern to the fabric, and suddenly there was progress:

Irish Crochet Edging - in progressIt’s still far from perfect, but it starts looking like it’s supposed to be. I ended up doing a few parts twice, but it got finished fairly fast after that point. Here’s the finished piece after washing the markings out and pressing:

Irish Crochet Edging - FinishedNext time, I’ll show you what I made of this and other lace goodies from my collection.

Crumbling Beauty – Finished

November 30, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | Leave a comment

The arabic star pattern quilt I posted about here has been finished for a few weeks now. The yearly exhibition of my quilt group finally gave me the opportunity to get a decent picture of the whole quilt:

Crumbling Beauty

I’ve named the quilt “Crumbling Beauty”, since the image I finally chose came from the idea of a colourful mosaic slowly falling apart with the passing of time. Its size is about 1*1.5 meters.

One decision I made fairly late, after I finished quilting, was to have the pattern symmetrical in the vertical direction. I had to cut off about 10 cm of the quilt along the left side to achieve this, but I’m happy with the result. The quilt has a very asymmetrical feeling anyway due to the way the colourful part is concentrated in the upper left corner, and I think having at least the pattern symmetrical balances that a bit. I also can see a cross forming around the central blue octagon in the middle of the upper part, extending vertically and horizontally through the red stars. I’m not sure how visible this is for others, what do you think?

Embroidered Letters

September 6, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Embroidery | Leave a comment

On one of my current projects, I needed to add some text that was supposed to be readable and pretty technical. While embroidering letters has obviously a long tradition, often in connection with monograms and samplers, what I needed was a bit different from anything I had seen before. Here’s a progress picture of the quilt in question:

BaustelleneinrichtungsplanSee all that text on the bottom, in nice long German words? This is a relatively small piece, so the capitals are about 1 cm high on the left and 0.7 cm on the right. That’s pretty small to get clear lettering in any textile medium. One obvious solution for this would be machine embroidery. Since I currently don’t have access to an embroidery machine, that option was out.

So, what did I do? After quite a bit of trying different things, I found a solution that worked for me. Let’s have a closer look, first at the text on the right:

Small backstitched lettersAs you can see, this is not a purely textile solution. I used coloured pens to transfer the text on the fabric, and the colour stays visible on the finished letters. Using one strand of standard cotton embroidery floss I backstitched around the contours of the letters, giving a nice crisp finish to each. It does look a bit uneven here and there, but if you look at the piece from a distance, it’s clean and readable.

The letters on the right, being a bit bigger, I did fill in:

Embroidered LettersThe letters were traced with a black pen, then outlined in backstitch as above. For filling in, I used a line of chain stitch in the letters, and French knots for the dots on the i’s.

This piece will be part of a larger project about the construction site that’s taken over my backyard during the last year. For German readers, there’s a bit more here: Hofbaustelle.

Tips and Tricks for Machine Couching

August 30, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | 2 Comments
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I seem to have contracted the couching bug lately, looking at my recent projects. First mention of this technique is here, way back in 2010, resulting in this quilt:

 

1001 Nights full viewI also used it in this year’s challenge quilt, and quite recently, to quilt the second incarnation of the arabic pattern from the quilt above.

While doing so, I realized that I have amassed quite a bit of experience with machine couching by now, and thought that some of the things I figured out might be interesting to others as well. So for once, I remembered to take a few pictures of the process. Here’s how the quilt looked like the last time I posted about it:

Crumbling Beauty - LayoutI finished the top pretty much in the arrangement you can see here, layered and basted it, and started quilting by emphasizing the pattern lines with a black thread with some sparkles in it. Here’s a picture of my sample, so you know approximately what I’m talking about:

Finished SampleThe pattern is all straight lines, with quite a few more or less pronounced corners. It is those corners that need a bit of care to make sure the couching thread ends up where it needs to go, and the corners themselves nice and crisp. So, after sewing up to a corner, I’m turning the thread and carefully pinning the next corner, like this:

Couching - Pinned CornerYou can see that I’m not pinning the couching thread itself, but catching the fabric twice, once immediately before the thread and once after guiding the pin over the thread. This keeps the thread able to move up and down, so I can easily regulate the tension, but fixes it sideways. I’m using a normal zigzag stich in my sewing maching to hold the thread down. When approaching the corner, I try to make sure the needle ends up on the inside of the corner before turning. I sew up right to the pin or even just beyond it. This helps to make the corner crisp.

Couching up to cornerAt this point, with the needle stuck in the fabric, I lift the foot and turn into the new direction, stretching and pinning the couching thread to the next corner in the process.

Couching - after turningI then continue sewing towards the next corner, where the process repeats. The result looks pretty good, I think, I hope I can show you the finished project soon!

Storm at Sea, Reloaded

August 23, 2014 at 9:55 am | Posted in Patchwork | 2 Comments
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Storm at Sea

Storm at Sea is still one of my favourite quilts, even though I made it way back in 2005.

So I was excited when Pat sent me the link to her own version of this quilt, and it’s absolutely worth sharing here: Buchheim meets Hokusai in a Storm at Sea. Lovely work, Pat, I’m looking forward to seeing the finished project!

A Textile Jaunt through the Netherlands

June 9, 2014 at 7:17 am | Posted in Museums and Exhibitions | 1 Comment

I’ve been traveling again, and it has become a habit that I’m selecting my vacation destinations by the existence of textile goodies to see. Makes me end up in places with lots of other interesting things as well, so that tactic has served me well so far.

My goal this year was the Netherlands, and I definitely had lots of fun there. Despite being very touristy, Amsterdam is a city not to miss. I spent three days there and didn’t even scratch the surface, there’s so much to see. For textile enthusiasts, I recommend the charming Museum of Bags and Purses, located in one of Amsterdam’s beautiful houses along the canals.

Museums in the Netherlands

A totally different place is the Museum Catherijneconvent in Utrecht. Dedicated to Christian art and culture, there are many different artifacts to see, ranging from the medieval period to the present. Beautiful textiles are naturally a part of the exhibits. The museum is situated in a former convent building that gives a fitting frame for everything that’s inside:

Museum Catharijneconvent

Here’s the page from my travel sketchbook I created at the museum:

Catharijneconvent sketchbook page

The beautiful ticket is on the left and an initial from one of the manuscripts on display on the right. Prices are in Euros, and yes, museum tickets in the Netherlands tend towards the expensive.

On the last day of my vacation, I visited the Museum de Kantfabriek in Horst. Located in the building of a former lace factory, it now has displays of local history as well as a very nice collection of working lace machines, with an emphasis on machine-made bobbin lace, which they also sell through their shop:

Museum de Kantfabriek

And the chicken flies to …

April 20, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Posted in Patchwork | 1 Comment
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I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for how the chicken saga continues. I didn’t want to make you wait any longer than necessary, so I found myself a random number generator and it determined that the chicken goes to Wanda Dotson! Go check out her fabulous blog, and make sure to follow her since she’ll probably be doing a chicken giveaway soon!

Chicken -- Back View

I think it was this picture which gave Wanda the idea for the chicken’s name:

I’d call the chicken Lucky Stripper since you showed her backside in public. She’ll be flying to the United States, the Commonwealth of Virginia, to strut her stuff.

So, I’ll make sure to point her into the right direction as soon as the post offices reopen after the Easter holidays on Tuesday. Have fun with her!

The Chicken Run Continues

April 8, 2014 at 9:06 am | Posted in Patchwork | 17 Comments
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After receiving my chicken, of course I had to go ahead and make mine immediately. Those are just too tempting, and quick to make! When choosing fabrics, I got inspired by the black and white chicken from Granny Maud’s Girl, which I tried to win but didn’t. So I combined a black and white scrap with some binding strips left over from another colourful quilt I made last year, that looking back at my blog I’ve never posted about. I promise to remedy that soon!

But back to the chicken, here’s what I ended up with:

Chicken -- Beauty Shot

And because she insisted, here’s the view from the backside:

Chicken -- Back View

Before we get to the giveaway, while making my chicken I came across a few things that may be useful to future chicken makers that I’d like to share:

    1. When making the log cabin blocks, it is useful to secure the seams in the last round, especially at the side where the tail will be inserted. I didn’t, and it was quite fiddly to get the seam allowances turned for where the tail goes without half the seams falling apart.
    2. That tail seam is one of the places where I found it useful to hand baste the seam before sewing. I tried without that first, and ended up with the tail attached to the upper part and a gaping hole where it should be attached to the lower part. So, after spending way too much time taking out the seam again, it didn’t take me more than 5 minutes to hand-baste that seam:
      Chicken - Basted
      After having that in, it was very quick to machine sew the tail into place, this time without any gaping holes.

So, now you know the tricks I found useful to make my chicken, it’s your turn!

If you would like to win this chicken, you need to do the following:

  1. Agree to make a chicken of your own to give away, so the Chicken Run can continue. If you have a blog, you can do the giveaway there, while linking back to the originator of the Chicken Run, Avis of  Oh Sew Tempting. If you don’t have a blog, you can still play, and Avis will be happy to host the giveaway for you.
  2. Make a comment to this post, telling me how you’d call this chicken if you win it, and which country it would need to fly to to reach you.

The giveaway will be open until Saturday, April 19th. After that day is over in all timezones, I will draw a winner from all valid entries. I’m looking forward to sending this on its way!

 

Look who’s landed on top of my mailbox!

April 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Posted in Patchwork | 7 Comments

Sunnygirl

Look who I found resting on top of my mailbox when I came home yesterday! Isn’t she pretty? Sunnygirl made her way all the way across the Channel from Squarebird. Check out the other posts on her blog as well, she’s got lots of interesting things going on.

The idea of the traveling chicken comes from Avis over at Oh Sew Tempting, and after having won this pretty one the next step will be to make a couple more of them and to host a giveaway here. I’ll be pretty busy the next days, but they do look fun and quick, so watch this space for the giveaway! I wonder where my chicken is going to live!

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