Anlichan: Sashiko Wall Hanging – Part 2

The beginning of this project can be found here.

Well, I haven’t finished this project, as I had hoped.  It seems that not leaving enough time to complete my projects is becoming a theme (if you can call a statistical sample of two a “theme”).  Knowing me, this will never change.  But, the good news is that I seriously doubt that my cousin and his fiancee are expecting anything from me, so it will be a surprise no matter when it gets to them.  Low expectations are the key to my success.

When last we met, I had 2 squares of embroidery complete, and one more to go.  The double crane went much like the other two squares, only faster.  The one place where I got a little nervous was where the chests of the birds were supposed to meet.  In the original pattern, they seemed to barely touch, but due to how I chalked the lines or where within the lines I embroidered, I arrived at the meeting point, and suddenly the one line I was working on looked like it was going to cross where the other line would go in a very ugly manner.  I considered picking the stitches, but in an attempt to salvage my work, I decided to sew the other chest line to see where that one was showing up.

two threadlines colliding

This turned out to be a good idea, because it allowed me to choose which chest line I wanted to actually stitch, and then I just let the other stitch be, so it looked like the chests were slightly overlapped.  And now, from a distance, it looks almost like they are lightly touching like it was supposed to in the first place.

finished double crane

And then came the piecing.

I hate piecing.  I had to make a wall hanging entirely by hand in 8th grade (not for home-ec, but for a joint language arts-social studies project of all things), which is where I learned to piece and quilt in the first place, and even then, I hated piecing.  I don’t know how people (*cough* Rozsamaria *cough*) do it, but I find piecing to be a painstaking, stressful process.  In this case, it was compounded by the fact that somehow, the edges of my silk had become oddly warped, despite the fusible interfacing.  Honestly, I think it came more from trying to fuse after cutting the square than the embroidery, but I’ll have to see in the future.

odd and annoying fabric warping

Also, I am not very good with a sewing machine.  I can never seem to make it go the right speed, so my cloth ends up spiraling out of my control with random, wild lines of thread.  As long and laborious a process that hand-piecing is, it would have taken me longer to do it by machine.  My mother, knowing this, was kind enough to offer her help, so instead of taking at least a week unto itself, we got the piecing done in about a day.  I pinned, she sewed, and I pressed the seams.

the stiff interfacing made it harder to get the seam to lie flat under the darker brown

We only ran into problems when, despite my meticulous calculations, the drawn seam allowances didn’t match up after we had sewn pieces together, resulting in jumping seam lines that we had to try to finesse into straight lines.  This became even more of a problem when, once the main three blocks were put together, we were trying to get the middle diamond to just touch the top and bottom squares.  Not overlap, not sit apart, just touch.  I got a little creative with where I ironed the “seams” to get the top square to touch the middle square.

I ended up hand-basting in a stitch just to keep the fold from falling out over time.

After all was pieced and done, there was only one place where the seamline is really visibly out of alignment with the rest of the piece.  Thankfully, because it’s in a place of all green fabric, it doesn’t really look like it’s out of place until you get up close and personal with the fabric.

this is not the seam you're looking for *waves hand*

Should anyone notice, it will hopefully be one of those charming quirks of being homemade instead of an eyesore.

After finishing piecing the top, the next step was to find a backing fabric that would look good enough to do a fold-over binding with.  While searching around the store, I quickly discovered that the fact that silk changes color depending on what angle the light shines makes it very difficult to find a brown fabric that matches.  I thought for sure I was going to have to try to find some green to offset the whole thing, when I finally found an amazing rich brown batik that had all the right tones of the brown silk.  It’s almost a pity I used the entire half-yard as the backing fabric, because that would be fabric worth having around to use at a later date.

I had always planned on embroidering something on the back to indicate who the wall hanging was from and why it was given, but I wasn’t quite sure how much information to put on.  I know that pros always tell you to put the entire provenance of the quilt on the back, but it always feels so ridiculous to me.  For instance, from Quilters’ Cache: “Whatever your chosen method…your quilt label should include at the very least, the maker of the quilt, the person who did the quilting ( if it was someone else) the name of the pattern, the date your quilt was finished, and the location in which it was made. “  The name of the pattern and the location it was made??  I know it’s good for posterity, but there’s just no way I’m going to embroider all of that on the back of a wall-hanging that I’m giving to family.  I would feel like a pretentious idiot.  I mean, I have a hard time even including my last name on things, since my first name is relatively uncommon. “Which Annalisa made that for us again?”  So I compromised, and included my name and Mike and Aimee’s names and their wedding date.  I’ll tell them all about the quilt and the various bells and whistles in a nice note with the gift.

I wrestled my way through several hand-written versions and computer fonts, but I finally found a font I liked for the dedication.  I matched the outer oval with the silk thread I’m using to quilt the wall-hanging, and I used white thread in the middle to mirror the sashiko on the front.  Then, for my little attribution rectangle, I reversed the colors.

last names redacted for their sake, more than anything

Having finished all the stuff that I needed the back free for, I ironed on the fusible batting, and I’m really pleased with it.  The only potential problem I’m seeing is how to get quilting knots to pop under the fabric when the fabric and batting are glued together!  Through the top layer I suppose.  Also, I’m starting to wonder if I should have sewn the hanging sleeve to the back before I ironed on the batting.  I guess I’ll see when I reach that point!

I had this great idea for quilting.  If you look at my drawn pattern, you can see “quilted ‘ai'” on the four triangles surrounding the cranes.  ‘Ai’ is the Japanese word for love, so I was going to quilt the kanji into the wall-hanging.  I even made a stencil so I could sew around the shapes.

my x-acto knife skills are epic

Unfortunately, the stencil was the high-point.  None of my chalk was showing up on the green fabric on the front, so I tried chalking the reverse of the stencil on the back.

my clothes took the brunt of this

The chalk wasn’t very permanent, so I had to be really careful as I was stitching.  Unfortunately, I was so focused on the fabric that I missed that my thread was stripping, so partway through it broke, and I had to pick it out to a place where I could make a knot to slip under the fabric, but it kept breaking!  I ended up having to pick out all of my work.  So I have given up on the ai kanji for now.  I think I will simply quilt around the silk squares.  Kind of boring, but the quilting thread really blends in with the front, so I don’t think it will be visibly boring.  It will just give some definition and shape to the wall-hanging.  (She said, not really knowing how it was going to turn out.  By the seat of your pants is the only way to fly.)

So what’s left?  There’s the quilting, which should be easier now.  Then there’s the binding and sewing on the sleeve so they can actually hang the wall hanging.  And then I’m done!  Oh, and the obligatory dry-cleaning, because there is a lot of chalk and cat hair lurking about this thing.  Hopefully there will not be any more unpleasant surprises in part 3!


Anlichan: Sashiko Wall Hanging – Part 1

I feel like there is a whole lot of backstory to go through before getting to this project, but that would take approximately 5 posts and way to much insecurity for this Friday.  Therefore, let’s start not at the very beginning, but merely at the inception of this project.

My cousin is getting married later this month, and, inspired by the amazing gifts Rozsamaria makes, I decided I wanted to try to make him and his fiancee something nice as a wedding present.  [A decision partly prompted by the realization that yes, I have finally reached the age when I have to actually start giving gifts of my own instead of tacking my name on my parents’ presents.  *sigh*]  I knew I wanted to do something mostly embroidered, for a couple of reasons: a) that’s the kind of sewing I like to do the best, and b) I didn’t want to try anything new on a wedding gift.  After much hemming and hawing and panicking at how little time I have before the wedding, I decided to make a small wall hanging with large, embroidered squares as the focal point.

The cleaned-up, final version of my design.

For the embroidery design, I knew I wanted to try something modern-Japanese.  Mike and Aimee both really enjoy all things Japanese, and I have a little bit of experience with Japanese design (read: I’ve researched various pictures/techniques while I was making something for another friend), so I turned to a style I had read about but never tried, called sashiko.  Traditionally, sashiko consists of a white running stitch in a tessellated pattern on indigo blue fabric, and, like many old arts, there are needles and threads designed specifically for doing it the traditional way.  Now, I’m still in the “poor student” phase of my life, so I’m a big believer in making do with what I have and waiting until the next gift-giving holiday if I need something else.  I have several yards of genuine Thai silk (a gift from my brother) in different, solid colors, plus I have white silk embroidery floss (a gift from the other habibis on this site), and I figured that silk makes for a pretty classy design, so I decided to use those for my embroidered squares.  The choice of the brown silk came about after searching madly through Mike and Aimee’s registry to see what sorts of colors they were asking for, and brown came up the most often.  I hope it works out.

The next hurdle was picking the sashiko designs, so I started with my local library.  After checking out literally every book on sashiko in the district, I found a book that really meshed the modern and tradition the way I was hoping.  Paradise Stitched by Sylvia Pippen is the result of the author’s wish to meld the traditional sashiko she learned from her mother and the designs and colors of her home in Hawaii, so while there were a lot of designs that were beyond me (applique scares the living daylights out of me), the fusion sensibility helped me see what I wanted to do with my own wall-hanging.  I ended up choosing a circular, double-crane design for the center diamond (an example of which does not seem to be anywhere online), since cranes are a symbol of long-life and loyalty in Japanese tradition.  For the top and bottom, I used this bamboo design, but I drew a little extra onto the bottom and put it off-center so I could mirror the design for the bottom square (hence the bamboo L and bamboo R written on my design).

After taking what felt like forever to plan my design, I started to do all the physical prep-work before I started sewing.  First I cut out the squares of silk, then whip-stitched the edges.  Working with silk makes me feel like Witch Hazel from Bugs Bunny because, just like Witch Hazel used to always leave an endless supply of bobby pins behind when she would dash away (see 1:40 in the video for an example), I always seem to leave silk strings in my wake.  To avoid letting my fabric fray into nothingness, I would whip-stitch the edges, which wasn’t perfect, but worked well-enough.

whipstitched edge

After making sure I wouldn’t end up with half the fabric I started with, I chalked on the design using my lightbox (a birthday gift I had just received), then I started embroidering.  The prep-work is the hardest part for me on these projects; I really like the embroidery part, so to finally get to that point was such a relief!

starting the sashiko

Another gift I received for my birthday was a gift certificate to Ruth’s Stitchery, a local store that I had never been to before, but where my mother found a huge selection of fabrics and the cutting mat she got me for my birthday.  I went there to pick the fabric I would use around the edges, since I didn’t have enough of any one fabric that looked good around the brown.  While there, I met an employee who has been doing silk and cotton piecing and stitching for 25 years, and she was able to give me all sorts of help and tips.  Here’s where I admit I’ve never actually tried to piece together silk and cotton.  I’ve embroidered on silk before, but I left the piecing part to Rozsamaria when we made decorative pillows, because silk kind of scares me.  I asked for it on a whim while my brother was in Thailand, and it was only after he brought me back 10 yards of fabric that I realized I had no idea what to do with it, so meet someone with firsthand knowledge was such a relief.  Did you know that you can, in fact, spot-clean silk with water and a little bit of soap?  Me neither.  But the best bit of advice she gave me was that there was this great fusible interfacing that you could use on silk that would keep your edges from fraying and would keep your silk from warping while you embroidered it.  The only thing was you’re supposed to use it before you start embroidering.  I had gotten a bit further than that picture up above, but I decided it was worth it to pick the embroidery and start again.

undoing the whipstitching

While it was somewhat depressing to render all that work I had done moot, I think it will be worth it in the end.  I’m certainly going to use the stabilizer every time I use silk in the future; it makes life so much easier.  Though, make sure to iron on the stabilizer before you chalk your design.  As you can see below, the chalk and the iron fought, and the iron won.  I had to go back and re-chalk all my designs.

picked and stabilized

Speaking of making life easier, let’s talk about supplies.  For you beginners out there, you may be looking at the various tools and acoutrements that I have and thinking “There is no way I can buy all of that, so how can I even start doing all these projects?”  I had the same problem when I first started, but the fact of the matter is you don’t need most of these tools.  Do the cutting mat and the lightbox and the rotary cutter make your life easier?  Yes, absolutely.  Can these projects be done without them?  Yes, absolutely.  Before this time around, I would make paper templates with the paper cutter then draw around them to make sure I had exactly the right size, then cut.  You can use standard fabric scissors to cut your fabric, and if you have a rotary cutter and no cutting mat, there’s always kitchen cutting boards (though that might not be the best thing for your rotary cutter; I’m not sure).  Before I got my lightbox (literally one and a half weeks ago), I would literally tape my design onto a window, then tape my fabric on top of it and draw like that.  For those of you with more artistic skills than a flipper-less penguin, you could try free-handing the drawing.  The point is, there are ways of doing these projects without all the fancy accessories.  If you do some of these projects and find you like them, then ask for the spiffy tools for a birthday or Christmas or Hanukkah, etc. and go from there.

beginning the sashiko: take 2

But back to the wall-hanging.  I have spent this last week embroidering like a mad-woman.  I have exactly 2 weeks to finish this project, so most of the time you can see me hunched over in the rocking chair, under a lamp, listening to a podcast or tv show I’ve already seen, and sewing my little fingers to the bone.  Thankfully, the sashiko stitch is a running stitch, so it’s as simple as it comes.  The only modification I made to a standard running stitch was that I made the top (visible) stitch about twice as long as the stitch along the back.  This was at the suggestion of Sylvia Pippen in her book, and the effect is really lovely; while there’s still open space between the stitches, the design looks full and complete.

completed top square

Whenever I got tired of embroidering, I would take out a different part of the project to work on.  In this case, it was cutting the cotton fabric pieces.  The cutting mat made this so much easier than in the past; I whipped through getting all the pieces cut in about 30 minutes.  I left room for 1/2″ seam allowances (instead of the more common 1/4″), since that’s what I had done with the silk, and it just seemed easier to have all my seam allowances be the same.  The way I planned the size of my pieces was based off my original design plan.  You may have noticed that there are lightly dotted lines on my plan; those are to indicate where the piece seams will be, even though they’re all the same material.

drawing my seam allowances

After thinking I had been so smart with my seam allowances, I realized as I was drawing my seam allowances that on the large triangles, I had not quite given myself enough room (planning right triangles as squares that you cut in half doesn’t quite do it for you), so my triangle seam allowances are more like 1/4″ instead of 1/2″.  Sometimes it’s good to give yourself some wiggle room in the event of poor math skills.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I finished the bottom sashiko square (R) as well.

And now we have arrived at my current stopping-point.  More adventures to follow in Part 2!

A sneak peek of what the wall-hanging will look like. Only, you know, actually sewn.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  I feel like there was so much information in this post, I must have missed something!

Edit: Part 2 is now available here!

Anlichan: Origami Anniversary

Hi all!  I’m Annalisa, but Spry calls me Anli, hence the wordpress handle.  I’m the least experienced of the crafters here, so much of what I do is based on the “I don’t know it won’t work unless I try it!” principle.  Fortunately, with the help of the magic internet and my wonderful friends, such projects usually turn out ok, but I promise not to shy away from my failures as well.

That being said, this first project definitely played to my strengths.  My first memories of origami came from my Dad; he would make various animals and balloons to keep me and my siblings entertained during church when we were little.  Naturally, when I got older, I wanted to learn how to do it myself, so Dad got me a kids’ book of origami (which I still have) and helped me learn the basics.  Since then, I’ve dabbled with whatever designs strike my fancy–usually boxes for gifts or some pretty thing to put on the table.  I’m no expert folder, but I have enough experience that I can usually make any easy or intermediate pattern without a problem.

Which is how I ended up making flowers at 3 AM.

My parents’ 30th anniversary was on the 15th of August, so I wanted to do something different and fun to celebrate.  If you are like me (and if you are, I’m sorry), most of your “brilliant” plans come at obscene hours of the night/morning, and this one was no different.  “I should make 30 origami flowers for Mom and Dad!” I said to myself, “That shouldn’t be too hard.  I bet I can even make them before they wake up!”  My brain is a triumph of optimism over reality.

All my origami papers.

So I forged ahead.  I knew how to make a couple different flowers, and I had lots of origami paper (most of which had been gifts from Spry at some point…thank you), so it’s not as if I was starting from scratch.  This would have been much more difficult if I had to pull out the paper cutter and start chopping my own squares because of a) time constraints and b) standard-weight paper is just harder to work with when you’re trying new origami designs.  Flowers tend to have fine folds to them which can be hard to make work if your paper is too thick.  That being said, I don’t think any of flowers I made would be impossible with standard-weight paper, just make sure you make really sharp creases.

I didn’t want to make just one or two types of flowers, so I found some new patterns on the internet that I tried making.  The first pattern was a cherry blossom-like flower from Folding Trees (a site which seems to no longer be updated, but has great instructions nonetheless).  I followed their instructions exactly with one exception: no glue.  Glue and I do not get along, so I used double-sided tape instead.  It worked quite well, and since I didn’t have to wait for anything to dry, I could make the flowers faster.  They’re probably not quite as durable as glue-fastened ones would be, but since I wasn’t trying to make them into the the full kusudama ball (see the Folding Trees instructions), it wasn’t an issue.

Two cherry blossoms, a lotus, and a lily.

The other two flowers pictured above I made off of patterns in Japanese Papercrafts by Mari Ono (which is a very enjoyable book).  However, the lily is probably the most common origami flower, so that pattern you can find almost anywhere (these instructions seem good and thorough).  The lotus I had not seen before I got this book, and I cannot find the exact variation that I made.  Perhaps I will need to post a tutorial on that at some later point, but it was made out of a single sheet of paper, and actually turned out to be the fastest flower to make once I figured out how to

Another flower I found online was called the Kawasaki rose named after the creator of the pattern.  It looked so awesome that I had to try it.  One of the best patterns available is here [note: the link goes to a pdf], and I really thought I could pull it off.  This is how far I got:

Doomed at step 9.

Now, I still think I might be able to make the Kawasaki rose, but it was not going to happen while I was trying to make nice-looking flowers for my parents nor while racing against the clock.  My parents are obscenely early risers, so I was definitely feeling the time constraints when at 4:30 AM, all I had were four flowers and a large mess.

One hour, four flowers.

At that point I decided that three different types of flowers were enough, and it was time to focus on folding, not learning new patterns.  This was a smart decision, but I still only had about half the flowers made by the time Mom and Dad woke up.  Oh well.  Next time, plan ahead.

Another problem I was facing was that I could only find one of our flower vases (the squat, round one above), and I wasn’t sure it would show the flowers very well.  In a flash of desperation brilliance, I started pulling various cups out of the china cabinet and found that those served as much better vases for my various flowers than our regular ones probably would have anyway.  Later on, while trying to find something that would hold the smaller cherry blossoms without them listing to the side, I found some empty candle-holders which worked out remarkably well.

The final product!

You may notice that on the outside edges there are a type of flower I haven’t mentioned yet.  After about 25 flowers, I was getting tired of the three patterns I had, so I found this pattern for a camellia.  Normally, I wouldn’t have picked it, since the design is fairly 2-dimensional.  However, my mom has a soft spot for camellias (her grandfather was the president of the American Camellia Society for two years), so I thought she might like them.  And actually, having a very flat flower turned out to be a nice contrast to the tall, skinny lilies and the pointy, full cherry blossoms.

It’s now a week and a half later, and Mom and Dad still have the flowers out on the table.  I think it worked out just the way I’d hoped. 😀

*     *     *     *     *

Project at a glance: Origami Anniversary

Supplies needed: origami paper, double-sided tape and/or glue, instructions for various flowers

Difficulty: Varies depending on the flowers you decide to make, but fairly simple.  However, it is deceptively time-consuming.

What I liked: The color and size variety of the flowers turned out much better than I thought it would.  Also, I like how using Mom and Dad’s china made for a different type of vase that worked better with paper flowers than standard vases would have.  Also, Mom and Dad really liked the flowers, which was the best part of this whole exercise.

What I would do differently: I would definitely have started earlier than 3AM the day of!  I would like to have had more time to attempt some harder flowers.

Verdict: Success!