Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Busy Bee! Quilting!

In Seattle, you haven't had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it's running.
~Jeff Bezos

Next project up! Quilting.
And for quilting, I decided to tackle my fear about using a sewing machine.

I have used a sewing machine once or twice before- When I was taking Home Economics in grade eight. I wasn't too thrilled with the barking nasty Home-Ec teacher though. So I'd sew rather slowly and do a lot of flipping of material to look busy, and then I took my apron and my shorts home to complete on my mother's old sewing machine so if I really screwed up, it wouldn't result in marks taken off me. It worked! And in grade nine, I went into cooking instead of sewing and said goodbye to the sewing machine forever.

Well, forever lasted until this Christmas. My mother and I were out Christmas shopping when I mentioned I needed to look at fabrics for quilting.

"Well, have you been to the Quilting Parlour? It's just down the street."

The quilting parlour was a tactile textile lover's dream. Except it wasn't cheap! I found a fabric I really liked, a black and cream pattern, and spent 8 bucks on two tiny pieces that probably made up a quarter of a meter. I decided because the pattern was grid-like, I'd make a rectangular patchwork runner for my first project. Something nice and easy if I were to practice using a sewing machine.

Have you ever seen the Grinch who stole Christmas? You know that part where the Grinch is imagining the Whos opening their presents on Christmas morning, and the Whos are banging their barbinklers and driving strange contraptions around hooting and honking? Well, the sewing machine for me is just like that. All thread and this winds around here and pops out there, and if you open this flap you'll find the bobbin and you've got to press this to get it out and make sure the thread is going counterclockwise and don't do this or you'll break the needle and then you'll have to read this 564,739-page manual to learn how to replace it etc. Blah blah blah. Luckily my mother was very patient showing me how to fill bobbins and thread the machine. I even filmed her on my camera just incase I got into trouble when she wasn't around.

Anyway, my mother's friend Nancy heard I was attempting my first quilt and sent over a beginner's quilting book for me to peruse. So following the step by step procedure on page seven, I started my quilting career.

Supplies pillaged from my mother's sewing room: a rotary cutter (Like a pizza wheel exacto knife for fabric) an old ruler that Joseph most likely whittled for Mary on the way to Bethlehem, my fabric, and underneath this is a large piece of cardboard to protect the table in case the rotary cutter slides of the self-healing cutting mat.

Once the strips were cut, I laid the fabric out like this and measured them carefully with the ruler. I drew lines (on the black I used a soapstone pencil and on the cream I used a water-soluble black pen) measuring the strips to be three inches wide exactly. Then I ironed creases down the black and matched them up perfectly with the lines on the cream.(You want the edges underneath to be folded under the black, because if you fold the black under the cream it will be visible in your finished project.) And then I did something that might be against the purist quilter's rules, but I fusible hem-taped the hell out of these stripes!

Time to sew it altogether!
My mother made fun of me for using so much fusible hem tape when all I was doing was sewing in straight lines.
"You can't trust yourself to sew in a straight line?"
"No, I can't! Not yet!"

Once the striped were sewn, it was back to the self healing mat, more measuring, and more cutting with the rotary cutter. When all the stripes had been cut into squares and ironed down the sides to make the creases, I skewed every second stripe in order to make a patchwork design.

Voila! It looks pretty good for a first try.
But I was off on the measuring a little on one end, so it's not entirely perfect.

The finished project!
If you look closely on the right you can see where the squares don't entirely match up.

Not bad. But... not really creative.

So! I decided to branch out. And the inspiration started with these pillows from Coccoon in Turkey. These are suzani pillows, but I'm pretty sure if I started trying to embroider these now I might be able to be buried with them when I'm an old lady. So I thought about silk screening them, but each colour would have to be a different screen @ 30 bucks a pop. So this would be at least four screens and let's face it, not as cool. So I decided to come up with my own one-screen design.

The beginning: My silkscreen primed and ready to go.

I made mom take me to the fabric store several times during the creation of this project, because I kept running out of material. I needed two meters each of burnt orange, turquoise and cream, and three meters of black. That's nine metres of material!

About my design. As many of you know I love travelling, and I love coffee. It's a good thing the two compliment each other immensely. I also love the look of tea crates with their lorigin and logos usually spray-painted with a stencil on the side of the plywood. If I ever find material that looks like plywood, I would love it! But I just decided to go for funky colours this time. The Arabic reads "Coffee Arabic". I forgot that Arabic reads right to left and got the words switched. Whoops!

My mother once told me she thinks she cleans up most of our creative messes. I'm telling you, Ma, you don't see a tenth of it! What we get up to while my mother is at work. I love the message on the TV. Ten points if you can figure out which video I was watching when I was taking this photo!
Sometimes I have genius creative moments. This might not look like much, but I needed a way to measure the squares to be the perfect size and centred. So I cut a hole in the centre and drew a kind of teapot- just enough to match up the measuring.

Once the silkscreening was finished, I roughly laid out the colours on my parents' kitchen floor. I wanted the colours to be a little bit random, but not bumping up against the same colour. I thought I had this one perfectly laid out the way I wanted it, but you can see in the bottom two rows I put two burnt oranges together. I caught it during the sewing though! I then took masking tape and labelled each one A1, A2, A3, next row B1, B2, B3.. etc. stacked them up in a pile and headed to the sewing room to figure out what to do next! Whenever I got confused, I referred to this photo.

What you see here is two days of work, and two panels that were sewn together. I had to make six panels and sew them all together in the end. And yes, I used fusible hem tape for most of it!

A sea of coffee pots!

Two days of silkscreening, one day for two panels= three days, a day to put it all together, a day to put the backing on, and two days of going back and forth from the fabric store. That's nine solid days of working on this quilt!

And here it is on the pull-out couch I sleep on while I'm at my parents'. As you can see, it's massive and hits the ground on both sides!

But guess what? I've got to do it all over again if I'd like one for myself. Because this one belongs to my big sister now.

Happy Birthday, Nae!


  1. Wow - what a job, what a quilt!
    I thought of you the other day when I saw my first yarn bomb on a tree in town. I decided to take a photo later on the way home, but by then the city workers were dismantling it. :-(

  2. Yay! It looks fantastic! Can hardly wait to get my hands on it, thank you!

  3. @Kate: Where and what was the yarn bomb? and @Rene Come home and get it! I dare you! : D

  4. It's great - what a perfect BD present!

  5. That's a good ploy to get your sister to visit, Mel. The 'bomb' was covering lower parts of several branches of a tree on Douglas Street, not far from City Hall.

  6. I LOVE IT! However. How do you expect anyone to sleep under all that coffee?

    PS: I've been meaning to start a quilt for a million years. Maybe this will push me in the right direction.