Retrospective: 2005 Cuddle Quilt

Welcome to the eighth in my more-or-less monthly series of quilt retrospectives.

Size: 80″ square
Design: traditional
Fabric: cotton flannel
Batting: 100% wool
Backing: cotton flannel
Pieced and quilted by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000) July 2005

In July 2005 I wanted a quilt to wrap around myself when watching TV or reading. I was back in Canberra full-time by then and the cold winters required warm covers. While I had several quilts in the cupboard, they were all fairly smooth cottons, which feels cold to the touch, and they didn’t drape well. I decided I was going to make a quilt out of flannel instead (technically it’s flannelette, flannel being a wool fabric, but the term cotton flannel is used more and more these days).

The choice of patterns in flannel is much more limited than in quilting cottons, but I found six that coordinated reasonably well in pink, purple and turquoise (even if the patterns themselves were nauseatingly cutesy) with a plain pink flannel to use as sashing. I cut out 8″ squares, put sashing around them and assembled the top. I chose wool batting for its warmth, and used another flannel print as the backing. It was machine-quilted around the sashing, leaving the squares themselves open and fluffy. All told it was finished in a week.

Even though it is not a beautiful quilt by any means, it’s the one I’ve used the most since it was made. It sits on the sofa and gets pulled around me any time I get cold — it’s soft, it drapes well and it’s very warm. I’m not afraid to pull it or twist it, or to eat or drank near it. It will probably wear out fastest (some of the fabrics are of a loose weave and now, 15 years later, are pilling badly and pulling at the seams), but I can always make another one.

Lessons learned:
1. It’s a good idea to build a small flannel stash because good quality and decent patterns may not be available when you want them.
2. Pre-washing flannel at high temperature to shrink it would be a good idea to combat the loose weave.
3. Flannel cotton + wool batting is heaven.

January Achievements and February Goals

It’s been a weird month — I’m in Canberra, so fire and smoke has been prominent in my life and to be honest, it’s hard to be creative when you’re checking the ACT Emergency Services website several times a day and sorting all the food and water stores for the umpteenth time. I think I’ve had the balcony door open all of four times since the New Year, and both I and the cats are getting increasingly fractious.

As a consequence, I didn’t accomplish much in January — I put buttons on the sacque dress and made a new petticoat for it, but now I can’t find the stomacher, so no photos. (I’m sure it will turn up eventually — things usually do, like the three costume books I couldn’t find for six months which I found two days ago hiding under a pile of other books.)

Regency slip front view
Regency slip side view
Regency dress front view
Regency dress side view

I also made a slip for the Regency style dress I made last year — you can see it above, modelled by Julie from American Girl. I made my own pattern for it and I didn’t allow quite enough room at the sides to get it over the arms of the doll — I was hoping to get away without a centre back opening, but I think the only way I can manage that is to make the fastening at the shoulders, and that will be tricky to do without altering the fit of the dress itself. I’ll have to think about it some more and try a couple more experiments. It’s also a bit too long for a quarter-inch hem, but that’s an easy fix.

Alternatively, I could add a skirt lining to the dress (the bodice is already lined so it wouldn’t be too hard).

For this month’s goal I’m going to make another doll dress, this time from the 19th century:

Thimbles & Acorns 1850 day dress pattern

The pattern is by Shari Fuller of Thimbles & Acorns, which I bought through Pixie Faire.

I have the perfect fabric for it — a diagonal plaid print that I bought a couple of years ago, with the intention of using it for laundry bag linings, but it will suit the pattern very well.

Grey plaid fabric

As always, I will make some alterations — there will be no pleating of the sleeves, for a start (in real life this was done only as an economy measure when puffed sleeves fell out of fashion but the dress was otherwise serviceable and the cost of replacing it too high). I’m keen to try the ruffling/pleating attachment on my Singer 99K — I’m not sure if I can do that in both directions or if it will mean all the pleats going around the skirt in one direction, but we’ll see. As for the trim, I’m not sure whether to use a black/grey or to find a bright contrast like green or red.

I’m also preparing a series of posts on my new doll acquisitions — this was supposed to have been done last October but I kept adding dolls to the collection. The last few are on their way now and I should be able to start posting later this month.

2019 Finish-A-Long Q4 finish

As usual, I am linking up through Sandra of Sew Of Course.

Well, after last quarter’s dismal failure I am pleased to say that I’ve completed this quarter’s project. In October I nominated this 1770s sacque gown as adpated for an 18″ doll from Thimbles and Acorns:

Doll sacque pattern
Doll sacque pattern

Here’s my finished version, as modelled by Caroline from American Girl:

1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) side view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) side view

I actually made two versions of this pattern, and I’ll probably make a few more before I’m happy with it.

The first version was done in cheap cotton homespun, just to see how the pattern came together without any adjustments or alterations. It wasn’t as difficult as I had expected, except for the sleeves (part of which was my own fault because I read “cuffs” as “ruffles”). Once I got my head around the back pleats they were easy to do; the side pleats were a little harder.

1770 sacque trial version modelled by Addy (American Girl)
1770 sacque trial version modelled by Addy (American Girl)
1770 sacque trial version modelled by Felicity (American Girl)
1770 sacque trial version modelled by Felicity (American Girl)

There were several issues with the test garment (ignore the petticoat length, that was me being ridiculously stupid).

1. One thing I wasn’t actually prepared for was that this pattern isn’t fitted as loosely as the commercial doll patterns (Butterick / McCalls / Simplicity). Even with the modifications this dress is too tight for my very early Pleasant Company dolls (Addy is the largest I have). It may not even fit early Mattel dolls, but anything after 2011-ish should be OK.

2. Even on a later AG doll (Felicity is from 2013 and is my thinnest AG doll) the front edges didn’t drape properly — this may be a function of the variation that is inevitable in soft-body dolls, but it’s still annoying.

3. The pattern included pockets and pocket slits — they may be authentic but with dolls they are also useless.

For my second version I made several changes.

I wasn’t all that happy with how the test gown draped at the front so I made a couple of minor changes to the armscye (I added 1/8″ to the back just behind the side seam and 1/8″ to the front at the shoulder) and the front edge (added 1/4″ to the front edge; reduced the angle of the seam at the yoke) and it fits better now.

I altered the back pleats so that there was one central box pleat and then three knife pleats on each side. It looks OK but I think I’ll fiddle around with it some more — maybe two box pleats either side.

1770 sacque dress 1 waist detail
1770 sacque dress 1 waist detail

I also replaced the box pleats at the waist with gathers. This wasn’t very successful, as you can see, because the gathers went right up to the bodice side seam. If I do gathers again (and I probably will). I’ll sew a straight seam out about half an inch and then gather to the edge – the gathers are only needed to allow the skirt to curve over the extended hip.

I made the stomacher a little narrower — the original version was too wide and looked out of proportion with the dress. I embroidered the front with a decorative stitch on my Janome 9400 — unfortunately I didn’t align the starting points as precisely as I had hoped, so that is something to work on in future. It’s pinned in these photos because I want to fasten it with 5 pearl buttons and thread loops on each side, and I only have 6 buttons. I could use hooks and eyes, but in my experience they never fit as well as you think they will, especially at this scale.

I wasn’t happy with the sleeve length on Caroline, so I tried the dress on two other dolls that have longer arms: Pearl from Our Generation and Galina (unnamed ballet doll) from My Sweet Friend.

1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) side view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) side view

I really liked the sleeve length on Pearl but the button on the back (to control the hair extensions) made the dress drape really badly so when I make a sacque for her I’ll put an opening in the back of the bodice lining so that the button is between the lining and the outer back.

1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) side view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) side view

Unfortunately Galina’s torso is a fair bit slimmer than any American Girl doll, so the extra centimetre in her arm length was counteracted by the looseness of the bodice – you can see it bulging outward under the arms.

Overall, though, I am fairly happy with this project.

Things I will change for future versions:
— the sleeves themselves are a little too long for AG dolls — by the time the ruffle is added the sleeves reach to the wrists, which is a little long. Next time I make this I’ll take out about 1 cm from the sleeve. I’m also going to reduce the sleeve cap a little (just a little) so that it’s eased in rather than gathered in.
— I really need to consider handstitching the sleeves to the bodice. Between the tight curves and the gathers it’s extremely difficult to sew an accurate seam on the machine, and that doesn’t help with the fitting issues.
— It may be worthwhile to make two stomachers (one narrow, one wide) to allow the dress to fit more than one doll.
— I also want to make a hoop skirt to go under this gown. It’s always a mistake to make a dress without making the relevant underwear and I should have remembered that.

Lessons learned:
1. Doll dresses need fitting and tweaking just as much as human dresses do.
2. Doll seam allowances are not at all forgiving. Be better!
3. Period dresses need period underpinnings.
4. I need to practice decorative stitches more so that I can align them more precisely.

2019 Achievements and 2020 goals

I should have made this report yesterday, but the bushfires held my attention and I make no apology for that. I’ve been affected by smoke haze for the last month, but luckily there are no actual fires in my vicinity (fingers crossed it stays that way). I was very relieved to learn that Rosemont The Patchwork Shop (their Facebook page) survived the fire in Mogo, though I have no doubt that the fabric will be badly affected by the smoke.

2019 was a reasonably good craft year for me: some achievements, a couple of fails and a surprising new direction.

Firstly, I managed to finish and send off seven quilts and twelve laundry bags for Aussie Hero Quilts. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph two of the quilts which I regret deeply, as I like to keep a record of what I make and there’s no way to get a photo now unless the recipients choose to send one to AHQ.

For myself I was able to finish one large quilt (En Bourgogne) and one small quilt (Tumbling Blocks), both as part of the 2019 Finish-A-Long project.

En Bourgogne quilt on grass
En Bourgogne
Tumbling Blocks mini finished
Tumbling Blocks mini finished

Other work during the year included 30 stained glass blocks and the partially completed Blue Christmas, which is still only half-quilted. Eh, I’ll get around to it before next Christmas, I’m sure. I also worked on Pentastic 2: Flame Rose as my wrists and thumbs permitted — I overdid it in March and I’m still feeling the effects, though it’s much, much better than it was a few months ago. I haven’t finished the green units yet but that’s not a huge issue as there is no deadline for this project.

Last, but by no means least, I had a sudden and unexpected diversion into doll dressmaking, which I would like to continue into the next decade — there’ll be much more on that next month when I write up my FAQ Q4 project.

My goals for this year are modest:
1. Finish one full-size quilt
2. Finish piecing Penrose 2: Flame Rose
3. Make a dust cover for my 9400
4. Improve my doll dressmaking skills (those tiny curves are so hard!)

October Achievements and November Goals (and a facepalm)

So … I honestly thought I’d posted this last week, but it turns out I hadn’t. Please ignore my embarrassment.

October Goals:

AHQ: I’m halfway through another three generic bags for RAAF Butterworth. I need to get them finished as well as this month’s goal (see below).

FAL: I was supposed to finish Blue Christmas by 10th October but failed dismally. I hope I’ll get the rest of the FMQ done by the end of the month so I can put it up as a decoration in December, but we’ll see how I go.

In the meantime, I’m working on the doll-size sacque dress I nominated as this quarter’s goal. I made a toile of the bodice lining to fit the bodice, but then I wasn’t sure how to alter the back to fit the revised lining, so I’m going to make the dress without alterations first and then I’ll work out how to alter it. I know that precise fitting on a sacque isn’t important, because the loose fit was the whole point, but the design as printed seemed to be sagging in the pattern illustrations and I wanted to eliminate that.

Other work:

Still going on the green rosettes for Flame Rose, plus I’ve figured out how to tweak the last round of roses so I only need two brown fabrics instead of four. At the rate I’m going I estimate a finish date (for the units, anyway) of March next year. I’d like to get the top assembled by May 2020, which will be the two-year anniversary of the start.

November Goals:

AHQ: I picked up a quilt in Monday’s request list (28th October) with a due date of 02 December, so that will be my goal this month.

FAL: Continue making the doll sacque dress.

Retrospective: 2002 Scrap Baskets

Welcome to the seventh in my more-or-less monthly series of quilt retrospectives.

2002 Scrap Baskets
2002 Scrap Baskets

Size: 235 x 280 cm (93″ x 110″)
Design: traditional basket block
Batting: low-loft polyester (I think)
Pieced: by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000) 1998-2000 (blocks) August 2002 (top)
Quilted: by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000) September-October 2002
Completed: November 2002

In my early years of quiltmaking (the late 80s, early 90s) I purchased various packs of fat quarters and fat eighths in order to build my stash. Many of these were “ditsy” prints (small floral sprigs) which I found I didn’t care for very much, so they languished in the cupboard.

In 1998 I decided to use up as many of these fabrics as I could by making a scrap quilt. In order to have as little waste as possible I chose a very simple basket pattern (basically a half-square triangle with a bias-curve handle). Over the next two years I made hundreds of blocks … literally, hundreds of them. I had so many blocks I had no idea what to do with them.

In 2002 I was posted to Sydney. I was living in a furnished apartment close to work during the week and commuting back to Canberra at the weekends. I wanted a quilt to use as a bedspread (it being too warm there for a doona) so I picked out around 260 of the basket blocks to assemble into what I hoped would be a colourful and cheery quilt. I quilted it in the ditch by machine (which took a fair amount of effort and a lot of rolling and clipping to get it through the small harp space) and bound it in a yellow print similar to those in the top.

When I put it on the bed, I discovered that while it was, indeed, colourful and cheery, I just didn’t like it. The fabrics were not to my taste and in all honesty I hadn’t arranged them as carefully as I might have done with a little more effort. Still, it did the job intended and saw me through another two years in a city I dislike. The silver lining is that I wasn’t terribly upset when I spilled a cup of tea on it (some of the stain remains to this day).

Apart from two baby quilts I made for my mother’s church fête, I never did anything with the rest of the blocks (approximately 500) which remain in a bag in the cupboard. From time to time I play around with ideas on sashing and embellishments, but I suspect that they’ll probably end up as a charity donation one day.

Lessons learned:
1. If you don’t like the fabric, you won’t like the quilt.
2. It’s hard to quilt in a small harp space.
3. An ugly quilt is still a useful quilt.
4. Tea stains add character.

2019 Finish-A-Long Q4 Nomination

Well, after having failed miserably on my Q3 project (I still haven’t finished the FMQ) my only hope of achieving anything in Q4 is to choose a small project. I’m branching out from quilting and trying my hand at doll dressmaking. I’ve already done one Regency-style dress from a Carpatina pattern (more on that in another post) so now I’m being a little more adventurous and I’m nominating this 1770s sacque gown from Thimbles and Acorns (disregard the mistake on the cover – it’s actually “pet en l’air”):

Doll sacque pattern
Doll sacque pattern

I’ve always loved the look of the sacque-back gown (and its jacket equivalent, the caraco) but I could never work out how to put it together. Luckily this pattern is fairly detailed.

Simplicity 8578 - Sacque gown pattern
Simplicity 8578 – Sacque gown pattern

Even better, after buying the doll pattern I found that American Duchess has a a sacque pattern available through Simplicity (8758 for the dress and 8759 for the relevant corset and panniers) which also has very clear instructions. After having read both patterns carefully I’m now much more confident in how to achieve the final dress.

On the downside, I am constitutionally incapable of following any pattern to the letter, whether it be quilting or dressmaking. I don’t know why, but I have to alter something — the colour scheme or the size or the setting or the fabrics or the trimmings, or some other small detail. Usually it works out all right but there have been one or two mishaps along the way.

In this case, I’m ditching the fabric ruffles — I know they were wildly popular at the time, but I’ve never been a fan of this particular detail and there are several examples (in both paintings and surviving costumes) where the dress is decorated by lace or embroidery instead. I’ll use lace this time and see how it turns out. I may try machine embroidery (or even hand embroidery) in the future. I’m also thinking about the sleeves and cuffs — the pattern wants me to line the sleeves and use doubled-over fabric for the cuff which will be very stiff so I may cut that back to single layers.

The pattern really needs silk but for this first effort I’m going to use cotton. It won’t look as authentic, perhaps, but it will still look better than these horrific examples (which I’m sure have only survived because no one on Earth has the complexion to wear them successfully):

Brown sacque from the Musée des Tissus de Lyon, photo by Pierre Verrier
Brown sacque from the Musée des Tissus de Lyon, photo by Pierre Verrier
Mustard sacque from the Fashion Museum, Bath, photo by Ludi Ling
Mustard sacque from the Fashion Museum, Bath, photo by Ludi Ling

When selecting the cotton for this gown, I first thought of using this very pretty small-scale chintz:

Pastel chintz
Pastel chintz

But then I realised that it’s too nice to be used as a first run, given the likelihood of mistakes. My next though was one of these two:

Brown cotton floral
Brown cotton floral
Mustard cotton floral
Mustard cotton floral

But that would be hypocritical given my comments on the two museum gowns I showed above *snort*.

Pale green cotton
Pale green cotton

Eventually I chose this one — there is a design there but it’s subtle enough that it won’t interfere with the shape of the gown, and it was a cheap purchase from Spotlight a couple of years ago (I think it was $6/m) so I won’t cry if I have to scrap the gown and start again. (And yes, I know I could use muslin or a solid, but where’s the fun in that?)

Oh, and as usual I’m linking up through Sandra of Sew Of Course.

September Achievements and October goals

September Goals:

I’ve been slacking off and reading rather than sewing the last couple of weeks so goals have not been met. However, the NHL season has started and my teams’ first games are tomorrow morning (or tonight, if you’re in North America) so I’ll be sewing at least three hours a day from now until April.

AHQ: Three generic bags for RAAF Butterworth. Partly done. I’ve finished one bag and two more are half-done so they’ll be ready in a day or two.

2019-10-03 Bag
Laundry Bag

Personal: the last two Hawaiian blocks done. Not done. Not even partly done.

FAL: Finish Blue Christmas. Almost done. All the walking foot quilting has been done and I only need to add a little FMQ and then I can bind it. As you can see, Vanima loves to help.

Vanima helping me to quilt
Vanima helping me to quilt

Other work:

Flame rose: I am still working on the “leaves” portion of the design. I had started some rosettes in a lighter shade of olive but hadn’t got very far when I decided that although it was the right hue its value was too light in comparison with the other two greens, so I popped into Hobbysew and found a batik that was much closer in value and blends very well.

I probably won’t finish this section until the end of the year, since my wrists are still having issues with more than 90 minutes hand sewing at a time. I’ve decided on colours for the two final sections, though, so it’s simply a matter of “slow and steady” until the piecing is completed.

October Goals:

AHQ: I may do a couple more laundry bags unless I see something jump out at me from the request list.

Personal: I give up. If I do something for myself I’ll add it in the next monthly summary, otherwise I’m not going to waste time on goals that are never met.

FAL: finish the binding on Blue Christmas and choose a project for Q4. At this stage I’m toying with the idea of a non-quilting project, possibly a doll’s outfit (more on that later in the month).

99 days

99 days left in 2019 (it’s frightening how fast the years go by now).

I’m keeping busy — I may not have been blogging but I’ve definitely been working on sewing projects (including my FAL goal).

I’ve been a little sidetracked by historical costumes the last couple of weeks. I’ve been reading my costume books (I have most of the Herbert Norris and some Iris Brooke tomes) and trying to make sense of the Janet Arnold pattern books. I have spent more hours than I care to acknowledge watching YouTube videos on dress and hairstyles of the 18th and 19th centuries and scrolling through costume blogs. Now I’m feeling the urge to try making a couple of toiles from the Arnold patterns …

There’s a reason for all of this, of course, but I can’t tell you yet as I’m still waiting on a couple of things to be delivered.

Retrospective: 1998 Castle Wall

Welcome to the sixth in my more-or-less monthly series of quilt retrospectives.

Castle Wall Hanging
Castle Wall Hanging

Size: 90 cm / 36″ square (approx)
Design: traditional blocks, in my own arrangement
Batting: unknown, low loft
Pieced: by hand (blocks) and machine (sashing and borders) July 1988
Quilted: by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000) August 1998

In 1998 I underwent an operation that I knew would entail several weeks’ convalescence, during which time I would not be able to do anything that required upper body strength, incudling lifting or machine sewing. I decided to embark on a hand-piecing project, which resulted in this wall quilt.

The centre is a Castle Wall variation in burgundy, green and gold, with the colour placement emphasising the star shape. Sewing this together took me only a few days, so I did the Kaleidscope blocks as well. By the time I had finished the blocks I had recovered enough for light machine work (that is, capable of sewing, not of lifting the machine), so I got one of my friends to set up the machine and then I sewed the border strips and set the top together.

It was machine quilted by me, mostly in the ditch but with a star in the centre octagon (formed by extending the seam lines) and some free-motion work in the strips. The binding is attached by machine and sewn down by hand.

I never did get around to putting a tube on the back, so the Castle Wall wall hanging has never been hung. (!)

Lessons learned:
1. Plain strips are plain.
2. Free-motion quilting is difficult and I need to practise more.
3. Hand piecing is much more fun than I had anticipated.