Month: February 2016

Irish Mini Quilt


Awhile back I posted some lessons learned during my mini quilt projects; I didn’t want too much time to pass before trying them out, so moved quilt #3 up in my queue.  This past month I rotated cutting the wedding quilt neutrals with working on what I have dubbed the Irish Mini.

The fabrics came as part of a kit from Connecting Threads, and they are certainly vibrant! They were also quite generous, with a little ingenuity I could probably piece one or two more tops from the kit!

I took care to be certain my lighting was excellent this round, and took my time with the piecing of the flying geese blocks. They were done in a unique fashion, which yielded two completed blocks for each pass. My piecing was more accurate this time, and I only had to recut one square. My flying geese could still use more practice. They met the size standard, but they are not all perfectly square, so the points wander a little bit from center.

imageThe quilt top really came together nicely, and now it’s time to experiment with some free motion quilting in the center. I was a little nervous about this, but looked for inspiration from  books and photos.  I visit Doreen at Treadlemusic often, and always leave inspired–she is a true artist! Last evening I looked around on Pinterest for quite awhile, and I found Lori Kennedy of the In Box Jaunt. I have decided to try her Irish Shamrock for the large square. Her tutorial made me brave enough to give this a go! She has oodles of ideas perfect for someone like me who can’t draw without serious help. You can check out her site here.

imageI have worked out a plan for the main body now, and spent a couple of hours on my machine finishing up. All things considered, I am really happy with how this quilt turned out. Of course there were more lessons learned…I do much better with my free motion quilting after a 2-3 minute warmup, and if I have to rip something out, my best option is to draw in the correction, because it is still difficult for me to start a section free hand. My stitch in the ditch was much improved on this quilt; I used my clear presser foot instead of the edge stitcher.

Sewing wise, if I ever do flying geese for a larger quilt, I will measure my blocks from the top of the triangle so they run straight. I will also cut my backing larger so I have something to trim off. I was short in one corner after the quilting, but was able to attach my binding so that it was wider in the back, so problem solved.

I’ve enjoyed the ability to apply what I’ve learned immediately with the mini quilts, and have also enjoyed having some finished projects as well. Now it’s time to set the machine for garment construction…my Marfy coat is next in the queue!



Catch Stitching

image My big project for this this year is the construction of Marfy 3219. I am sewing it in a herringbone tweed that has dark charcoal and a greenish tweed that seems to have a bit of navy and some flecks of gold. I truly thought it was gray until I laid it on my dining room table and it caught some sunlight. Whoa–this was NOT what I thought it was. It was a good thing I hadn’t ordered the blue paisley lining fabric I saw at B. Black & Sons!

Some of you may be wondering how I managed to not truly know what color my fabric was…I won it at the MIWW contest, and the lighting wasn’t very good…it seemed to be a dark charcoal gray. In fact, every photo looks black or gray, but it is clearly green in natural light!

That little revelation, along with my fear of cutting into my precious 2 yards of silk organza from Susan Khalje, caused a stall in my progress. I finally pulled out my pattern peices, and decided to draw them on the organza, experimenting with a pencil, as well as blue and white colored pencils. I was unsure if the pencil would even show up once the organza was next to my fabric, but it did, beautifully. In comparison, the blue and white pencil were not satisfactory.

imageThis step brought up some questions, if you have thoughts, please share! Namely, does one cut organza for every facing piece? I decided not to use organza for the collar band and facing, front facing, the pocket facings and the under collar.

Once finished , I cut it apart and then lay the organza on the wool, essentially using them for my pattern pieces. I decided to lay one organza piece on the folded fabric and cut around it, leaving as much margin as possible. With only 2.5 yards of wool to work with, I knew that it would be a tight fit, but I hoped that with the exact seam lines to guide me that it would be OK. The cutting went smoothly, so I moved on to catch stitching the silk to each peice of wool.

Again, there are questions that my trusty sewing book doesn’t answer…should the catch stitching thread match the fabric?  My decision was to use up some old thread, so it doesn’t  match my fabric. I can see it easily, and I reasoned that it will never show because the stitching will be in the seam allowance. Finally, with the entire coat lined, the catch stitching will not be visible  to anyone.

Because I used a traditional layout, I have to separate each wool piece and pin the second organza peice on the opposite side, while matching the grain lines and corners. It’s not difficult, but it would probably be easier to just cut everything individually. While it isn’t the most exciting part of sewing, catch stitching shows progress  and allows for plenty of stopping points.

For one of my breaks I visited my local Hancocks to check out lining and button options. Happily, I was successful in finding both. The lining is 100% polyester, but has a silk look. The right side has a rougher texture, and the wrong side is very slick and a little more muted. I think I may use the wrong side, but I’ll wait a bit before making my final decision. My buttons are an antique bronze colored metal, and while there weren’t enough at the store, they ordered the rest for me.

Underlined fabric, lining and buttons

I have spent close to 20 hours catch stitching already, however, after feeling the fabric and seeing how it acts with the organza attached, I have opted to cut a piece for the collar band as well. So, one more pattern piece to catch stitch, basting the stitching line on its facing, and I will be ready to start some machine sewing!

I still have several construction decisions to make, and some lining pieces to draft. The back of this coat has a yoke, but I’m not sure that I want the yoke in my lining, especially since I’m going to interline with lambs wool. Another decision is whether to attach a wool facing to the pocket lining so it doesn’t show if the pocket gapes at all during movement. And, I still have to order my horse canvas interfacing, as there is nothing but Pellon available in town.

It looks like bound buttonholes at next on the agenda…

Catherine’s Wheel Sweater

Knitting is something I learned to do well while in Norway, but I actually learned from my mom while in kindergarten. I was pretty unsuccessful then, because I could not control the tension. Within 10 stitches, it was impossible to get the needle inserted, no matter what I did. So, I gave it up. Seventeen years later my Norwegian cousin had me knitting away in the round, doing color work no less! The difference? European style knitting…I thought I had learned Norwegian style, but according to YouTube, I learned to knit Russian style…from my Norwegian host mom. Maybe it has more to do with how close you are to the Artic Circle. Whatever the actual method, I think knitting and purling as I learned is fast, easy, and relaxing.image

My first knitting project for this year is a navy blue cardigan, with three Catherine’s Wheels on each side. I chose a yummy yarn I found on sale from Patternworks, called Bretton that is 70% super wash merino wool, 25% nylon and 5% alpaca and comes from Romania. The pattern came from Bendigo Woolen Mills in Australia and was downloaded from the Ravelry knitting site. image

The only embellishment on the cardigan is the wheel pattern. The edges are moss stitch all around. The set in sleeves give it a nice tailored look. The only thing missing now are the buttons and it will be complete! Finding any suitable buttons locally has been a challenge; I haven’t found any navy blue at my usual fabric store, so I am going to search tomorrow at the less likely locations, like Walmart. (The joys of living in Western South Dakota!)

While knitting this sweater I became curious about what exactly a Catherine’s wheel was, and found two answers. During medieval times, it was a torture device that looks very much like the design on this sweater! The more modern definition is a pinwheel type fireworks display. There is also a crochet pattern, a yoga position and a song with the same name!

I think I will really enjoy this sweater. I wear cardigans a lot and it was great to find a pattern that has a feminine fit. I expect I’ll be using this as a base for future projects. In fact, if the tests match with the label I may use this as part of my outfit for the 2016 MIWW contest! When I finally have buttons, I’ll post a picture of me wearing my cardigan.


4-H Sewing

Yesterday afternoon I met with my six sewing kids, who are part of the 4-H program on base.  They range in age from 9-11 years old, and have a varying amount of experience.  Thus far we have tried out some hand stitches and learned about the sewing machine. Last week we started our first construction project, a nine-patch pillow, and yesterday we almost finished the sewing part.

With only an hour, it is important to be VERY efficient, so I go out ahead of time and prep the machines. When everyone arrives we do the 4-H pledge…I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.  Maybe there are a few 4-H alums out there?

I had pre-cut 4 1/2 squares for the pillows out of left over imagepatriotic fabric from last summer’s Quilt of Valor project with a different group of military youth, so it was only a matter of selecting and laying out before we could begin to sew. We have four working machines, so once we talked about driving, and speed they were ready to go.  To help them with their steering, I used masking tape on every machine. They could then line things up, and do each seam. Free two weeks everyone is close to completing their pillow. Next week we will begin pajama pants.

I like using the nine-patch as a first sewing project, because you can sew very short seams and don’t have to back stitch until you are more comfortable. Even very young sewists seem to be able to keep things fairly well aligned for the 4 1/2 inch seams in the first step. When we move to the horizontal strips, they are used managing their speed, and can concentrate on their steering.image

What projects have you utilized to help someone learn to sew? I’d love to gather more ideas, as I think this will not be the first group!

My Bestemor


That would translate to grandma in English! Josephine Marie Pederson was born in Wisconsin, but her family moved back to Norway when she was nine months old. She lived on a farm near Mo, up in Nordland, right on the Arctic Circle. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was 25, eventually married my Grandpa Gustav Jacobson, and had nine children, of which my mom was #8; the first to speak English before Norwegian.

I never met my Grandma, she passed away when my mom was 25. She was born in 1883, and died in 1950. I have pictures of a small woman with a strong jaw and glasses…knitting. Evidently, she read books while she knitted, and didn’t even look up to count stitches. She was very fast; she probably had to be with nine kids to keep in socks and mittens! My mom said she did beautiful handwork, though most of it had been finished before she was married.

When my bachelor uncle died, the aunties emptied the old farmstead and divided up any items that my Grandma had made, and my mom drew the lot for the pile with the hardanger in it. This peice, pictured above, is over 100 years old, and is stunning! Since receiving it from my mother, it has mostly lived in my cedar chest, coming out for special occasions. There is a corner that needs repaired, so I don’t use it often. My hope is to recreate the pattern and make a twin for my sister.

While I never met my Grandma, I did have a spectacular opportunity to experience my Norske heritage as an International 4-H Youth Exchange Representative right after college. During those six months I absorbed as much handwork as I could, learning how to knit, crochet, sew hardanger, craft a bund, and prepare lefse, flatbrod, blotkake and even speak Norwegian–badly.

My Nordland bunad, shown above,  has a linen blouse, a dress made from a heavy, coarse wool, with an apron and shawl made from cotton and linen. The collar and cuffs have white work that mimics the pattern on the skirt. The sewing construction included square cut sleeves with a square godet in the underarm and a pleating technique that is very measured, To gather in fullness at the shoulders and cuffs of the blouse and the waistband of the skirt. My mother helped me by embroidering the leaves on the skirt. Though her arthritic fingers hampered her once fine abilities, it is the only sample I have of her stitching, so I treasure it all the same.

While in Norway, I learned that roots really do run deep…my second cousin picked me out of a crowd of 100 at camp, because I looked like a Jacobson. Even more surprising, my host families thought I’d learned Nowegian at home, because my accent was from Nordland! Crazy stuff!! I will be forever grateful to my host moms who made sure I learned the important cultural things they thought my grandma would have deemed important to pass on. That included baking, which you can enjoy through my host mom Aud’s blog.

Those modern ladies ensured that I would be able to pass on my Grandma Jacobson’s heritage to my daughters. Ironically, my eldest attended St. Olaf College, a small liberal arts school in Minnesota founded by Norwegian farmers who didn’t speak English, and my youngest has a dear friend at her college that is Norwegian! And so it goes…