Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On the Road Again!

It's that time of year and we will soon be heading off to the beach for a week of sun, fishing, and dog play. While busily planning what to pack, dithering about a new swim suit and whether the cover-up covers enough, and the other minutia of vacation prep, I have also planned a good road trip project. Several years ago I became enamored with the idea of non-traditional yarn. First I tried making yarn with grocery store plastic bags. A couple of years later I made a cute bag with fabric scraps and included the instructions for making fabric yarn. This year I'm attacking the fabric scrap box to make rag rug style chair pads.
It couldn't be simpler. First follow the link above to make your yarn. What a great feeling that is for a Yankee-at-heart girl like me to use up all those scraps.
Now select a really large crochet hook. I used my US N/9.00 mm aluminum hook from Boye. Because the quilter's cotton fabric I used tends to be a bit sticky, the slippery aluminum works quite well. A Bamboo hook might offer a bit too much resistance for smooth crocheting.
If you don't remember your crochet in the round technique, take a refresher here. You may have to play with the increases a bit to make sure the pad lies flat. In this first sample I made ten stitches in my first round, doubled each stitch on the 2nd round, doubled every other stitch on the 3rd, ever third stitch on the 4th, etc. And if you find yourself running out of yarn before the chair pad is large enough, don't worry. Just add more strips of fabric as you go along.
A perfect "on the road" project. All you need is a bag of scraps, a crochet hook and a pair of scissors. Enjoy

Monday, April 9, 2012

Holy Hexagon Bat Girl!

Over the Christmas Holiday Craftsy started promoting a class by Amy Gibson titled " The Craftsy Block of the Month ". Now honestly this type of project has never appealed all that much to me. I'm not one for following other people's patterns as I like to make up my own. But, I saw that she was going to teach a couple of techniques I had yet to try and the class is free, so I signed up. We made several fun blocks in the first three months, but one of the techniques I was itching to try was English Paper Piecing.
April is the month and the designs Amy chose where all about hexagons. Now usually I knock out the blocks for the month within a days or two of the class module being published, but despite the apparent complexity of the blocks for January, February and Mark shown here, they are really quick and easy to put together using the machine and a rotary cutter. This month was an exception.
If you are familiar with the technique you know that one of the reasons quilters love English Paper Piecing is that all of the work is done by hand which means it's a great take along project for long car rides and peaceful vacations on the beach. If you are familiar with the technique you also know that one of the reasons quilters hate English Paper Piecing is that... all of the work is done by hand.

The two patterns that Amy designed (Hexi Stripe and Sunny with a Chance of Hex - my versions shown at left) were fairly straight forward with good sized hexagons. The sun is a 2 inch hexagon (measured as 2 inches at each side rather than the overall width and height dimensions of the shape) and the hexagons for the stripe are 1 1/2 inches. OK those little sunbeams are made up of 3/4 inch hexagons, but even those weren't bad.
I did discover one time saver. Through a little trail and error I found that if you cut a piece of freezer to size you can run it through your inkjet printer to make multiple of the paper hexagons much more easily than tracing them onto computer paper. After that it's a fairly mindless task of affixing the paper to a scrap of fabric, basting the fabric around the shape to hide all the raw edges, joining the hexagon's together, removing the basting stitches and paper pieces, and then hand stitching the designs onto your background fabric. That took a fair number of hours in front of the TV. But that wasn't so bad either. The real problem started when Amy challenged us all to use the technique to design our own blocks.

Now I have been working with a palette of holiday colored (though not necessarily holiday themed) prints so it seemed natural to design a Christmas Tree and some Snowflakes. The problem came in when I realized that I needed to make the shapes really small in order to get a clear enough representation. I ended up making them about 1/2 inch to a side and sister I made a lot of them - nineteen for each snowflake, and of course you have to have two so that the one won't look lonesome. For the Christmas tree I made 48 of those little beasties. Whine, whine, ouch, ouch. Why haven't I ever learned to be comfortable with a thimble when hand sewing.
For all the complaining though, I have to admit that I like the way they turned out. And this quilt is sure going to be colorful. Can't wait to see what comes next.