Cat mat mini quilt

My oldest cat, Maya, will do anything for warmth. Her second name is Seat Thief – the moment you stand up, or even dare to lean a little off your chair reaching for something, she just appears there instantaneously. She magically transports to your lap without you even knowing until it is time to get up and you’ve discovered yourself catnapped. She’s a sly one. When not absorbing your body heat, one of her chosen spots in the house has always been on top of my sewing box, as it has a little bit of padding and is near enough a lamp that I suppose it is ever so slightly more warm than elsewhere in the house.

When we got a new router, its temporary home was on the same bookshelf. I guess it gives up enough heat that upon discovering it, she sacrifices a wee bit of comfort, as it has become her favorite spot to nap (she has a heated pad in her bed that she shares with my other cat which is on a timer for nighttime).

She’s small, only weighing just over 5 pounds, so she makes it work. For that reason, we haven’t moved the router yet, but every day I see her there and I just think she deserves something more comfortable!

So I dug through a lot of my scraps and pulled together a little mini quilt to lay over the router for now.

I used coordinating fabrics from two different sets, though I have since lost their identities, and added quite a few scraps from who knows where, all mostly cut from 2.5″ charms or 5″ rectangles. I was definitely not shooting for perfection here as I slaved away in a single day to address Maya’s immediate need for more comfort as she watched over me from the router.

To quilt it, I just used a basic zigzag stitch down the long seams. My favorite way to bind things these days is to use the backing as the binding, so I did that here, and then added zigzags all around to finish it off. No contests will be won with this one, I assure you!

I think Sasha now needs something. She isn’t the type to perch in a single spot all day – she likes to be in whatever room I am in, making sure I don’t get into any trouble so she has quite a few favorite places. But she does require a little foot stool to get onto my bed these days, now that she has some arthritis issues. My gramma gifted it to her, and the fabric is old so perhaps a makeover lies await in its future, hmm?

This is not the stool in question, as we both like the vintage look of the turtle, but she can’t thank my gramma enough for it, she loves it so much! :)

Update: Of course she likes it ;)

TAST bunting

Sharon at Pintangle has been running an annual Take A Stitch Tuesday (TAST) program for many years now, and you might recall that I participated in 2018 (see my journey here). Well, I finally pulled it all together and converted my study of embroidery techniques and color combinations into a stream of bunting!

When I designed this project, I had inspiration from Sheila at Making a Fairytale. To turn my samplers into bunting, I sewed them as triangles onto a vintage brown floral cut of fabric for the backing.

I inherited a huge roll of grosgrain ribbon so I chose that as the connecting line so that I wouldn’t need to piece strips together. I whip stitched two lengths together across the top, then spaced out the triangles and hand-sewed them in place, whip stitching between each triangle.

Even though my finished triangles are small (roughly 4.5″ wide by 5.5″ tall), by adding a 2″ gap between each and 6.5″ of length at each end for attaching it some place, my bunting is quite long as there are 19 pennants to it. There would have been more, but if you’ve followed me since then you will remember that I was beginning to run out of the ground fabric so I opted to merge many stitches together by the end.

Everyone who has seen it seems to have a different favorite one. I have a few favorites myself, so I completely understand! I wonder which is your favorite?

My technical skills drastically improved over the course of the year. I was, of course, working on other projects as well but TAST really helped me focus and understand various stitches.

TAST also allowed me to play with color. I limited myself to the giant pouch of bulk embroidery thread I had from my very early days (the cheaper stuff), so I had to stretch my mind a little to get out of the color-combo box I normally live in. Playing with color combinations isn’t something I had done before, for the sake of color, as usually I follow a pattern with colors already chosen.

In the very beginning, I didn’t understand what ribbon embroidery is. I used rayon ribbon on the very first pennant (the yellow ribbon flower on the Running Stitch triangle) and was like “how do people work with this?!?!”. Later that year, I would try out a ribbon embroidery kit and learn my lesson – duh, there are different kinds of ribbon and silk is magic!

When I started TAST, I also didn’t understand much about using beads or sequins. You can see that I tried implementing them early on but then later ditched the idea. Since then, I have also learned about beading, namely through the crazy quilt classes by Kathy at Shawkl (here, here, and the one I am still working on!).

I would love to try TAST again and either follow Sharon’s Beyond TAST version, or experiment more specifically with beads or different kinds of embroidery thread (these are almost exclusively 6-stranded floss, though occasionally a perle cotton or strip of yarn or ribbon make an appearance).

I would do another banner like this as well, because I think it is just such a clever way to visually display a sample of embroidery techniques. Next time, though, I wouldn’t use triangles – why repeat exactly the same? I might try either a scalloped banner, or even squares/rectangles.

My technical skills, as I said, increased with this project, and one of the things I would like to explain is how to prevent permanent accidental knots without any frustration because I finally figured this out. Even though I am thousands of times better at this than when I first set out to sew, knots get even the best of us. Maybe I will make a post about this in the future, with photos, but until then I hope this helps. The first lesson is simply doing enough sewing to realize, at a subconscious level, if the length of thread you are pulling is shorter than it should be compared to your last stitch (as in, there is a knot behind the fabric). This lesson is tied to hearing the thread being pulled through the fabric as well (if your hearing is still rightly good and you don’t have a lot of noise in the background). It is also tied to finding the right speed and force when pulling the thread. The key is to stop pulling immediately when something is off and check the back. This results in a loose knot, which is almost always a type of slip knot. If you gently hold the knot between your fingers and thumb, and gently pull in the direction away from the tail of the previous stitch (not in the direction away from the tail connecting to the needle – this makes it tighter!), it will likely slip out quite easily! If it is a particularly tight knot, you can sometimes wedge your needle into the length of thread that has wrapped itself around the loop; pull the tail end coming from the previous stitch while keeping the needle within the knot, and voila! This almost always works, and once you get the hang of noticing a knot forming, and how to remove it, they take less than a few seconds to correct – honest! Of course, there are ways to prevent the knot forming in the first place, but this tip is for those times when a knot just hangs you up anyway.

Anyway, this bunting will be lended to the guild for display at the library early next year and whenever else they might want a sampler of surface embroidery for display. I had considered donating it to the guild, but Boy, of all people, refuses to let me part with it, so there is that :)

I hope you try TAST for 2020 – don’t be overwhelmed with the idea. Just doing a basic one inch line of a stitch once a month is better than nothing at all! You will learn so much by the end of the year :)

Meant to Bean

My friend got married in October and I missed the deadline – even though work began in April! They set up a webpage for the wedding information with the tagline “Meant to Bean” (it makes sense for them) so that was obviously part of my inspiration. My friend also used a custom puzzle to propose, hence the shape.

I used a combination of embroidery stitches (namely woven roses and colonial knots, but also some back stitching on the fall leaves and to tack down the vines), buttons, sequins of varying shape, beads (round and leaf-shaped), scrapbooking paper flowers and leaves, and jewelry items (#bestdayever and floral beads). 

This project was actually restarted multiple times, if I am being honest. Mostly, I think, because of the size. I tried a large round hoop and also stretcher bars, but I wasn’t getting the fabric stretched well. In this final iteration, I basted a stiffer interfacing with a lot of stitching rows because I was super over the distortion problem. Grr! Then, instead of trying to get it all inside a hoop, I only used a hoop for the stitching of “Meant to Bean” (chain stitch with rayon variegated thread) and carefully freehanded the rest.

As far as pulling it all together, that is an experiment that I hope holds up to the test of time! I didn’t stop to take photos but I will describe what I did. I found wooden puzzle cutouts and glued them together. I cut the fabric to be a little larger than the puzzle pieces so that I was able to wrap the edge around (clipping along curves as needed) and used thread to snug the fabric tight against the wood by lacing it back and forth. Then I glued a large sheet of felt to cover the backside.

I also wanted to edge the piece somehow, so I once again dug out the copper trim I’ve used in other projects. I tested a short length of it on fabric and it holds remarkably well! So, I went ahead and used it here. I love that it is subtle but wow, the difference before and after is intense! I wish I had taken a photo to share. In fact, the copper was something known from the start, which helped me choose the overall color palette itself. Though, I must also admit the added teal blues were an afterthought but it really pops!

I’ve added a way to hang it on the wall and it is now in possession by the newly weds. Congrats guys! :D