A Single Girl Quilt for a Mermaid

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There’s nobody easier to make/buy/pick out gifts for than my sister. She has maybe the most well-defined personal taste I’ve ever seen, which can be narrowed down to: Country/Tribal/Western, Non-Preppy Nautical, and Just a Smidge of Emo (black nail polish, tiny Sharpie tattoos.)

Part of the reagiphy (1).gifson I love making gifts so much is it’s fun to experiment with different colors and themes than I would choose for myself, and interpreting that theme in a way I still think looks good. I knew I wanted Christie’s quilt to be this pattern, mermaid/ocean themed, and in her favorite color combo: turquoise and brown.
IMG_8174.JPGDenyse Schmidt’s Single Girl is not a quilt I ever thought I would be drawn to, but something about those busy, colorful “squircle” rings set in a serene solid background just gripped me. It’s so visually fun and interesting, so different than my usual orderly squares, and perfect for using up scraps and small bits of fabric.

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pre quilted Single Girl 

While turquoise and brown might not be my favorite color combination, I love a color challenge and couldn’t be happier with the results. Instead of dark turquoise, it’s aqua; instead of medium brown, it’s rich bittersweet chocolate brown; and shades of coral, navy, teal, cream, and peach round out the palette.

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Aside from the background and backing, I actually didn’t buy much fabric for this quilt– most was scraps I already had, or fat eighths/quarters purchased as needed to complement the prints in my stash (you only need about 2-3 yards total of ring fabric.) The patchwork rings are improv pieced, meaning you get to sew scraps together in an curve more or less mimicking the pattern piece, then you lay the pattern piece over it and cut around to make a clean curved piece. It’s fast, it’s fun, and gives you a lot of freedom in terms of sizes and color layout. After just completing the Adventure Quilt a week or so earlier, this imprecise method was just what I needed. Sewing the curved pieces took a little practice, but if you use pins and go slowly it’s hard to mess up.

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I sent this quilt out to be longarmed because “scale” scallop quilting would be the final  touch to really convey the mermaid theme, and I’m so glad I did. I usually don’t want o to shell out the cash for longarming, but a few of my seams weren’t super flat and the quilting really nailed everything down.

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Even though I don’t usually use quilt patterns, I think Free Wheeling Single Girl is really well made and I’m already planning another for myself!

  • Pattern: “Free Wheeling Single Girl” by Denyse Schmidt
  • Quilt top fabric: scrappy, with an emphasis on aqua, brown, and coral, with mermaids and under the sea motifs. Background is Cotton Supreme Solids in Iceberg.
  • Batting: Hobbs 80/20
  • Backing: Pure Element in Grapefruit, a solid from Art Gallery
  • Binding: Whisper Palette Jewels by Lizzy House
  • Quilting by: Thread Bear Quilting
  • Number/size and type of blocks: 48/12″ (I think?) improv pieced curves
  • Finished size: twin
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Finished: An Adventure Quilt

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The first Christmas we were together, at the tender ages of 16 and 17, I knit Tyler mittens and a scarf for a gift. For the 6 following Christmases and his early November birthday, I’ve always made him something, usually knit– a better scarf after the first one felted, reversible double knit hat with a Mythosaur skull (double knitting is a beyotch,) another pair of mittens after the first ones felted, a sweater with sleeves that would thrill a Doctor Seuss character, and a small, frayed quilt.
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Having an early November birthday means double gift making in a marathon time frame– as soon as the birthday’s over, it’s a sprint to the next finish line. That means gift making usually starts sometime around September, so the “feel” of the gifts is always fall-oriented. Luckily, that aligns perfectly with his taste, because brown and forest green and neutral colors and  a love for the outdoors is never so strong as in the fall. Last year, I decided that the tiny quilt from five years ago deserved a worthy replacement, and this half-square-triangle-Ron-Swonson-approved-queen-sized-beast was created. I knew for Tyler only two things would really matter in a quilt: size (big enough for his 6+ft frame to burrito himself in) and warmth.
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Design
My initial plan was flying geese blocks, enough for a queen sized quilt, but after reading Jeni Baker’s “Patchwork Essentials: The Half Square Triangle” I switched gears and decided a “mock” flying geese (2 half square triangle blocks with dark colors together) would be much better. The book enlightened me to the 8 at a time method for making HSTs, and folks it changed my lyfe.
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Fabric
I ordered a fat quarter bundle of “High Adventure” fabric and added in a few favorites– “Sprinkle” from Cotton+Steel in Pickup Truck (the name alone would have made it perfect) and Counting Stars, and canoes from Trail Mix by Rae Ritchie. The neutral off white is Kona in Natural, which has tiny dark brown flecks in the weave that I just love. I wound up needing to order a few more half yards of some of the prints, but the 8 at a time method left very little waste from the fat quarters so I felt no guilt. I love the espresso colored Peppered Cotton from Studio E for backing, and as a special touch, Molly helped me embroider a gorgeous deer motif on a corner of the backing.
Sewing
There’s so much I could say about sewing a quilt this size I’ll save it for a special post, but I will say this– being organized and taking the time to sew where you can get it is crucial. So is good TV for endless hours of cutting, chain piecing, trimming, ironing, chain piecing again, ironing again…
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Quilting
I had my sister and two of my brothers help me stretch, tape, and baste this thing. The internet is also helpful. Then I straight-line quilted it on my new Janome AMH M100 and even though I forgot the extension table, not a single seam twisted or puckered or folded and I think that machine is my best friend.
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Binding
Is it weird that binding is my favorite part of the quilt making process? I hand bound this quilt because I was tired of sitting upstairs alone at my machine and wanted to hand sew next to the Christmas tree in front of Christmas movies. Also, hand binding looks so much better.
Washing
Wool batting has the loft and softness of polyester and warmth like a big, flat oven. I washed the whole quilt on delicate in cold water and it held up like a champ. Warning: it will smell like a dirty sheep when you open the washer machine. Relax, don’t take a deep breath, tumble dry it low and cool then air dry to get the final dampness out.
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After it was done, I felt triumphant and relieved and frolicked with it in the snow to take these photos, thinking about how happy I was it was done and I wasn’t chained to a huge project with a deadline anymore. Then I made a dress (post on that soon,) passed my finals and medicated my stress with wine and tears and cookies.
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He loved it, by the way, and was actually speechless, a feat I don’t take lightly.
Quilt Stats
  • Pattern: Technique for HSTs from Jeni Baker’s book,”Patchwork Essentials: The Half Square Triangle”
  • Quilt top fabric: “High Adventure” by Designs by Dani for Riley Blake, supplemented by “Sprinkle” from Cotton+Steel and canoes from Trail Mix by Rae Ritchie; Kona in Natural
  • Batting: Quilter’s Dream Wool
  • Backing: Peppered Cotton 108″ wide by Studio E
  • Binding: Red buffalo plaid from “High Adventure”
  • Quilting by: me, on my Janome AMH M100
  • Number/size and type of blocks: 256/ 6.5″ half-square triangle blocks
  • Finished size: 96″ x 96″

Hobbies & Happiness, Uncharted

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I haven’t posted here in a while. I hate the fact that months go by between posts. Why? I’ve felt like there has not been anything worth sharing. Except I never wanted this blog to ever be only a place to brag and share the best of my work, rather, a place to chat and share how I fit my favorite arts into everyday life. The truth is, I haven’t been fitting those arts in my life the way I wanted. Between work and school, time is short, but more truthfully, my motivation ran out.

I didn’t want to knit or sew just anything—I wanted to create. To design, to express my own taste and exercise my skills and learn new things. While giving 100% at school (in a major that relies on design and creation) and 100% at work (the retail environment and all that implies) while struggling with constant pain and inflammation in my joints, I feel mentally and physically drained. My friendships suffer for lack of nurturing, my spiritual life slogs for lack of time to reflect. On my few days free of work or class all I want to do is stay home and sleep, and when I do, I wind up teary and bitter at nighttime because I wasted the day. Failing an assignment because I completely forgot about it, getting to work late in the morning because I overslept from closing the store the night before, and shaking loose change bottom of my purse to buy coffee the day before payday (only to come up 10 cents short) are enough to send me over the angry edge. Why do I feel like I do nothing but work of both school and job variety and still often fail at both? Why do I feel so unproductive when all I do is work?

That said, I feel like I’m overreacting a lot of the time. My overall grades ramain above 90% in every class, despite an occassional mis, with teachers who encourage and enable me to succeed (even when I waste huge amounts of expensive paper printing patterns that I didn’t size properly.) I have enough money to buy schoolbooks, art supplies, and a cute Modcloth winter coat. I work with kind, supportive people. Getting everything done on time requires huge amounts of planning, list making, and reminders, and if those are not in place, I feel my anxiety go through the roof.

I think a large amount of why I feel so down and overwhelmed is because my brain and my hands crave time to make things. Not objects to be judged or graded, but to be made for the sake of doing something on my own terms. I miss knitting so much because it allows me to be both productive and resting at the same time. Designing the projects, taking something from thought to reality is both fulfilling and nuturing for my mind. I’ve learned when time and energy are short, I need to step back and just make without the mental exercise of complex design. While I love cables, lace, and fair isle, their intricacies are not what I need right now. So I crocheted (a skill in which I’m not totally fluent) a chunky cement-colored blanket, almost completely while watching TV or movies (Person of Interest—watch it, please and thank you.) It’s not really pretty, but it’s warm and made me happy to work on in the past few months, just to have something to work on that doesn’t have to be perfect.

I recently began an infinity scarf with some Berroco Vintage that’s been sitting in my stash for 2 years…and I have almost no plan for the design. Sailing uncharted (knitting pun intended.) I know how big it will be, and that it’s going to have 2 x 2 ribbed boarders on the edges, but the main part hasn’t been planned. Simple knitting is what keeps us warm and cozy when it’s cold outside, and it’s what keeps me from quitting school and moving to Norway to study fair isle and cheese making sane right now.

What’s the point of all this? Not entirely sure because I’m pretty tired. But I’d say it’s to not let everything else get in the way of doing little things that brings you joy. The world won’t end if you take an hour to work on a project that has no deadline. That you should take up a hobby because work and school and outside responsibilities shouldn’t take total control of your life. That you might get more peace out of your day by baking a loaf of bread or knitting a mitten than reading comments about the Starbucks red cup non-existent debate (raise your hand if you got unfriended for saying this is the least offensive thing the company has ever done *raises hand*) At the very least, you’ve got homemade bread to eat while scrolling.