The semester has begun, but the crafting marches on

I’m now two weeks into the semester, and things are beginning to settle into a new equilibrium.  This week was quiet enough that I’ve begun quilting Marigold (more on that in a bit), but the week before, when the semester started, was COMPLETELY crazy.

Something I didn’t mention when I talked about my exciting new job was that I was also hoping to be hired by a bigger, more prestigious institution that shall remain unnamed.  I started teaching Monday-Wednesday at 8 a.m. at the community college in the same week that I was going to a lengthy and intensive orientation process for the bigger institution; I’d teach for two hours at eight in the morning, run to my car, drive forty-five minutes to the other school, and then sit through orientation for six hours.  And then go home to do my teaching prep and my orientation homework.  This happened on Monday, and on Wednesday, and by Thursday I was lying around in pieces.

And then I got an email from Bigger Institution saying they weren’t going to hire me.  Not enough classes to go around to hire all the new people.

So you can see why I haven’t been posting for a while.

But, I’m really enjoying working with my new students at the community college, and have high hopes for their work this semester.  In my off-hours, other projects have also flourished.  The angel has progressed to the point that you can start to see its final shape.

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My stripey shawl has also grown, so much so that I’ve ordered a longer circular needle to keep working on it.

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And, as I mentioned before, I’ve started quilting Marigold!

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This is an old picture I found a few days ago, from when I’d just soaked and washed the blocks and hung them up to dry.  (You can even see my box of Shout color-catchers on the right; absolute life-savers for working with vintage fabrics in strong colors.)

And here’s what one of those same blocks looks like today.

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I was tempted to do some really elaborate line-work on these blocks (just out of natural over-achieverness), but only thought about it briefly before deciding that I should really keep it simple: let the fabrics speak for themselves.  On each block, I’m stitching in-the-ditch around each diamond and the squares between them (using a white Gutermann 50-weight thread).  In-the-ditch means right on the seam line, which sounds easy but is probably one of the most unforgiving ways to quilt; any deviation pops right out when you look at it.  For a little variety, and to help things lie flat, I’m also stitching next to the seam at times, about 1/16 of an inch away.

As I’m quilting, I’m being careful to start in the center and work outwards, to help the blocks lie nice and flat.  If you start at the outside edge and work inward, it can create bubbles and wrinkles, and there’s no way to get them out except rip out the stitches and start again. So far it’s going well!

On the front this design in the white thread is quite unobtrusive; you can see it much more clearly on the back.  (Please disregard the threads that need to be trimmed.)

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I love how it looks on that backing fabric.

The white stitch-in-the-ditch takes care of the center section.  In the solid diamonds in the corners, I’m stitching around the edge of each diamond in a coordinating thread, and also doing one straight line down the center of the diamond, on the long axis.  You can just see it here on the black diamonds.

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It’s a subtle, elegant effect that gives just a little more texture and dimension to the blocks.  The solid diamonds don’t quite lie flat before they’re quilted; they especially tend to bulk up in the center where all those points come together, but this quilting design really helps to level that out.  To make sure I can sew through all those layers of seam-allowance, I’m using a thick needle for this, a 110 topstitching-needle; it has a special channel above the eye of the needle to accommodate thicker threads, and the thickness of the needle makes sure both that the thread will have enough room to go through the fabrics, and that the needle won’t bend, which can lead to skipped stitches and broken needles.

Right now the Marigold blocks are in varying stages of completion.  One is completely quilted (the black one, pictured above), five are partially quilted, and six are still waiting for their shadowy seam-allowances to be trimmed.  There may be a couple that don’t really need it, but I think they’ll probably all get the treatment before I quilt them.  Here you can see the back of a block that’s in-progress: the seam allowances on the top have been trimmed, the ones on the bottom haven’t.

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The trimming has to be done carefully, to cut the red seam allowance but not the white, and particularly not to cut through the seam or the fabric underneath.  It takes about thirty or forty minutes to do one block, but it really makes a difference on the front.

The picture on the right is what this same block used to look like.  There are times when the trimming’s really tedious, but it’s absolutely going to be worth it in the finished product.

I’m hoping to finish Marigold sometime next week, and then re-open my Etsy shop in time for the weekend.  I might also be introducing you to a new quilt project in the next few days!  Until then, peace be with you.

 

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