Courage Of The Morning Sun

Finished these socks yesterday. Used Opal yarn: Courage Of The Morning Sun. I loved the colour combination and the way it knit up. I happened to have a ball of Sisu yarn in a complementing shade of burgundy to go with the burgundy in the Opal yarn. It set up a striking pair of socks.

Courage Of The Morning Sun

The only challenge, which you can’t see in the photo, is that I didn’t quite get the start point for the second sock right. I didn’t remove enough yellow yarn before starting the sock so the strips don’t line up perfectly between the two socks. Given the nature of the “pattern” it doesn’t really matter. Nobody is ever going to notice when I wear them.

Modern Quilt – Improvisation

The start of a new quilt. This is fabric left over from the Blushing Peonies Quilt. I’m working to use it up because my storage drawers and boxes are just about full and there’s really nowhere to put both the large and small fabric pieces.

I decided to use them instead of leaving them lying around gathering dust.

Blushing Peonies – Modern Quilt

What I have so far is this compilation of strips and block sections created by starting with a large piece of fabric, slashing it, then slashing the resulting pieces further, and inserting bits of fabric and recompiling the original block with the insertions included. I’ve done two largish blocks so far, the resulting piece is about 20″ wide x 22″ long – a good start.

I’ll keep adding segments to what I have here intending to end up with a good lap-size quilt 50″ x 65″. What I’m after is large sections with strong insertions – particularly showcasing both blushing peonies fabric – the peach version as well as the darker fabric I used in the original quilt.

Just gotta keep going.

I had originally intended on doing something quite different with the fabrics based on 2 1/2″ strips but the idea I had wanted the central smaller square to be one piece (instead of 4 triangles) using the blushing peonies so the flowers would show.

Garden Trellis – from a jelly roll

Setting up a block like that, however, proved more complicated than I was willing to take on – getting the mitred corners on the surrounding pieces was just too fiddly to bother with. Scrapped that idea for now.

So modern quilt it will be.

Night Blooming Cereus

Two nights ago my friend Marlene’s night blooming cereus was blooming again. It’s quite a spectacular site – the flower begins its display around eight in the evening, slowly opens over a couple of hours, around  midnight it develops a wafting scent (to attracts the bats that pollinate the flower), by three in the morning it has begun to fade, and it’s finished blooming around dawn.

Night Blooming Cereus

I took this photo around 9:30. The flower isn’t fully open; the outer petals will expand further creating a flat disc around the cupping petals. But you can see the glory of the bloom even at this stage.

Here is a photo of the first time this cactus bloomed (I don’t have the exact year mid to late 1980s, likely) – just before it was fully open around midnight.

Orchid Cactus – Original

We spent that evening in the garden, sipping wine, watching the flower open. No bats, sadly, to pollinate it. I had enlargements of the photo printed to commemorate the occasion. I still have the print hanging in my home.

Blushing Peonies – VI

After looking at the finished quilt for a couple of days, I decided, today, to fill in the slightly large unquilted corner where the four embroideries came together. You can see what I did in the photo – I’d set up an embroidery of a single scaled down flower from the original design and stitched in the center of that space.

Quilting, detail

I did all 35 of them although this is really the only one where it actually shows. The other locations were at the junction of 2-4 blocks, or within the large bordered blocks and aren’t as obvious. Nevertheless, I’m happier with the quilting being more uniform throughout the quilt.

Blushing Peonies – V

Finally done – or I think it may be – I’m still trying to make up my mind about doing a bit more quilting. Having finished the in-the-hoop blocks, I can see the spots where the corners of the embroideries meet – or rather where they leave a slightly smaller than palm-size unquilted area – 35 of them to be exact at the junctures of the embroideries. I’ve pressed both sides of the quilt and those spots are definitely less obvious than they were – but…

Blushing Peonies – Quilt Top

The question is whether I use the scaled down single flower stitch-out I set up from the original quilting embroidery to tie those spots, or to leave well enough alone…. At the moment, I’m predisposed to leaving the quilt as it is but I’ll keep mulling this one over – I may in the end do those embroideries.

Blushing Peonies – Quilt Back

The binding – my original plan was to do a hidden binding but in the end I did a narrow binding the way many people do it – by folding a 2.5″ strip in half, sewing the doubled binding ~3/8″ from the edge, folding it over, sewing it with a decorative stitch. It turned out to be considerably more work than my usual 5/8″ single thickness binding which sews on more easily and folds over and corners with much less effort. However, I didn’t want a prominent binding so I settled for this narrow one. Probably won’t do this again – either a hidden binding or a standard 5/8″ one.

Now my next decision is what to make from the leftover fabric – some kind of simple quilt that I don’t have to fuss over too much. I was thinking “Garden Trellis” would be easy to do – using 2 1/2″ strips of the Blushing Peonies fabrics to set up the HST blocks – BUT I see the centre of the on-point blocks being unpieced squares of the peony fabric – I have just enough to do that. However, the piecing is somewhat complicated – in Garden Trellis II I created the coloured squares by piecing them in after I’d created the dark/light blocks. In this instance I want to showcase intact peonies. The easy way to achieve the appearance I’m after is to log-cabin the central square; but I want the seams of the block to be on the diagonal they way they are with HST blocks. I can see I’m going to have to make some mock-up blocks to work out how to construct them. Again, I’ll probably do a 6 x 8 block quilt which means 48 blocks constructed with somewhat complicated sewing, I think.

Well, next some some playing around.

New Wool/Cotton Socks

Last month shopping for yarn at Have A Yarn in Mahone Bay NS, I came across this wool/cotton blend yarn. I’ve seen the yarn before and was hesitant about the feel of it and potential lack of stretchiness because of the cotton blend. However, I thought the colour combination was interesting so I decided to try a pair of socks.

Made with Pro Lana – Alicante 7 Yarn

The yarn is 45% wool, 35% cotton, 13% polyamide, 7% polyester. It’s plied in such a way that there’s quite a bit of stretch when you pull on the yarn. However, the socks, now knitted using the same number of stitches and same needles I use for wool socks, have come out with a looser fit than my regular wool socks. It will be interesting to see what happens when they’re washed. My wool socks return to their original fit when machine washed in cool water and air dried. I’m hoping the same will happen here – maybe even a bit of shrinking because of the cotton content.

Don’t think I will use the yarn again, though. I had no comparable yarns to use as contrast for cuffs, heels, toes, although this particular colour selection turned out a lively sock without contrast. I only bought the single ball of this yarn. I’ll be returning to using my usual wool (75%)/polyamide (25%) superwash yarn.


Blushing Peonies – IV

Just done – the piecing for Blushing Peonies is completed. Fiddly! More than once I opened seams and rotated/repositioned small 4-patch blocks because a colour was next to the same colour in a larger block. I took apart large sections of the middle portion of the top in order to center the large bordered block. At this point, I have to say I’m please with the colour flow and can live with the symmetrical layout.

Blushing Peonies – Piecing Finished

I now understand why I ended up stuck with the symmetry after looking again at the first 2, 4, 8, 16 quilt and comparing it with this one:

Original 2, 4, 8, 16 Quilt

Same block size – same number of blocks (more or less) – but in this first version, my 16″ blocks were background, neutral, used to showcase the bright 8″ blocks. The strong turquoise block draws the eye to the central portion of the quilt and the large blocks in three of the corners fade away. Your eye moves to the other 8″ blocks in turn and then picks up the colour flow of the small blocks, but not really ever landing on the three large corner elements. So in this quilt asymmetry allowed me to make the 8″ blocks the focus of the quilt.

In Blushing Peonies, having decided to border the three 16″ blocks and make them the focus of the quilt I was forced to arrange them in a diagonal with symmetrical placement. The 8″ blocks don’t capture your attention, and the smaller 4″ and 2″ blocks just fill in colour around the three large blocks.

I could have gone with my original idea:

Quilt Top Laid Out – Sort Of

In this case I managed a viable asymmetry – but the final quilt dimensions were wrong – it wanted another 4″ in the length and if I had put a 4″ row on one end, I would have wanted a complementary 4″ column on the right side – which would have distorted the width/length ratio. So I opted for inserting the 4″ between the middle and the bottom and centering the large block.

Now the question is – do I frame the piecing with a narrow border (in which fabric)? Do I bind it conventionally, or use a hidden binding and allow the pieced edges to border the quilt?

I have enough each of the red mottled and grey mottled fabric to construct a backing with some kind of insertion – not sure yet which to use – it will likely turn out to be the grey to tone down the back in relation to the top. I need to sleep on all of this before doing anything more.

It’s been an interesting exercise – I’ve learned a lot more about colour and design by doing this quilt. I did not anticipate the decisions I’d run into before I started out.

One other thing –

Yesterday Melanie McNeil raised the matter of quilting seam allowances:

(someone) asked today about a “scant” quarter-inch seam allowance. A variety of responses were given, from “it doesn’t matter as long as your seam allowance is consistent” to “it DOES matter if you want things to fit.” The best answer included a link to this video, which explains exactly why a good seam allowance matters.

This Blushing Peonies quilt top is an example of when it does matter – in order to get all the small 4-patch blocks to fit the 4 1/2″ squares, etc. I needed careful scant 1/4″ seam allowances. There have been instances where I haven’t needed to be so vigorous about the seam allowances but here (and with the Wandering Geese quilt) I had to be meticulous.

Watch the video if you’re interested in what this discussion is all about.

Blushing Peonies III

I’ve just completed 2/3 of the assembling of the Blushing Peonies quilt top and I can see I’m not going to be happy with the asymmetrical position of the middle large block!

I wanted to offset it from dead centre but it’s going to annoy me if I go any further and don’t reposition it so that it’s balanced in relation to the other two large blocks. (I wish I could think of another way to create asymmetry in this quilt top, other than the random placement of the 2, 4, & 8″ blocks, but I can’t. I tried eliminating the 4″ horizontal row between the top and middle sections and didn’t like how that looked. Pushing the middle block to the left as I have today feels unbalanced as well. So I guess I will have to go with a symmetrical placement of the three 16″ blocks and live with it. Those large blocks definitely stand out and draw your attention – they need to be in an aligned diagonal.)

Blushing Peonies – 2/3 assembled

So first thing tomorrow I will open sections of the pieced middle so I can move the large block over 4″ to center it in the panel. Then I’ll piece the top 1/3 – that will go fairly quickly once I have the elements in the middle 1/3 moved around.

Peach Socks

Well, these socks turned out nicely. Finished them last evening. They were fun to knit because the bright colours changed often and resulted in a pleasing pattern.

Peach Socks

Into the stash they have gone. While I do have sweaters in peach and shades of purple, I have enough socks in those colours I don’t need another pair.