I’ve made three Grace Fearon doilies from her Volume 1 Designs book, and one is just prettier than the next. I love these, and this project. I have a blank space inside a decorative mantle in my living room that is crying out for lacy mandala doilies, at least it is crying out to me. I want to put a collage of doilies in there, different colors but all neutral, and sort of cascading down from little to big. So far my doilies are 10, 12 and 14 inches. I started wondering if any of Grace’s designs were smaller, and lo and behold, on her website (gracefearon.com) she has some free patterns, and some of them are smaller! I am so happy. Even with my larger-than-Grace crochet gauge they should be smaller than what I’ve done so far. I have thread left over from what I’ve already done, so bring on the littles!
The first one I tried was Siobhan, in white. It came out to 7 inches of beauty, and a really fun thing is that I finished in one day. Talk about (almost) instant gratification. The range of sizes I have so far seem to work really well together. I can almost see them on the wall, cascading down like drifting snowflakes. I just need more. More!
So I have returned to where I began, and I’ve redone Eleanor. Now she is Natural, a creamier shade of white, and has been done with a 1.25mm hook (instead of 1.75mm used the first time). I’ll keep this version, but it came out to 14 inches in diameter, two smaller than the first time, but still two bigger than the pattern calls for. I don’t think I want to use a smaller hook. I can barely see what I am doing now! I keep having to take breaks so my eyes can refocus. It might just be the pattern; it is lacier than some. Or it might be me and the way I crochet. In any case, I like it, it will work in the fireplace space, and I’m moving on!
Mandala number three is Margot. I had tried starting Margot before doing Wendy, and I got messed up, so I pulled it out. Now I am back, to try again. I hope I can figure it out because it is gorgeous, and one of the patterns I really really want to do.
I’ve worked Margot using a 1.25mm hook, and I used the thread I had used for the first Eleanor attempt, which is antique white. I found a perfect ‘tensioner’ for my thread, although it’s not one I’ll use again routinely: I frogged Eleanor directly into Margot. So as I was crocheting Margot I was pulling out the stitches from Eleanor down on the floor. It was just enough to put some, but not too much, resistance on the flow of thread through my fingers. My Margot ended up being 10 inches, as stated in the pattern! But I can’t see me crocheting all my thread into something just to pull it out when I make something else. I still need a better solution.
I’m not sure what I did wrong the first time I tried this pattern, but the second time everything worked smoothly. Maybe I was tired the first time, and misread something. I think if you get something wrong in these patterns, most of the time, you will be really messed up. Just do what Grace says to do and you will be fine.
The second Grace Fearon pattern I tried was Wendy. I picked my whitest white thread and tried my 1.5mm hook. This is the hook that I am using for an Irish crochet project for my sister, same thread I think, and I remember the hook working well for the leaves and roses, so I thought it might work for this doily. And the result is better than the first Eleanor I did, for sure. The fabric is firmer, the stitch definition is better, I will definitely keep this one. However, it is still 2 inches bigger than the pattern says it ‘should’ be. I must be a very loose crocheter. I admit, I do have trouble keeping an even tension on thread; yarn is easier to control between my fingers, thread seems to slip right through. I try to get a better tension by wrapping the thread an extra time around a finger (too tight), by running it under a crossed leg (but I have to move around too much or my leg falls asleep), or by tucking it under the edge of a pillow where I sit on the couch. The last one seems to work the best, but it is a little too much tension still. What do you thread crocheters do? Is there a trick I don’t know? Please comment! I’d love some hints.
So, somehow I discovered Designs by Grace Fearon on Ravelry. I can’t remember how. Maybe I was just browsing around; I can spend a lot of time doing that. I know I had stumbled across a free pattern called ‘lace pinwheel mandala doily’, not by Grace Fearon but super pretty (find it at www.crochetmemories.com). I plan on making this one sometime, but I haven’t tried it yet. Anyway, I got an idea in my head of doing a bunch of intricate crocheted doilies and hanging them together in a mosaic in the space inside a decorative mantle in my living room. My husband is iffy on the idea…he prefers blank spaces to filled in spaces, but I think this blank space is not right. I plan to use all neutral colors so hopefully the result is soothing and peaceful. That at least is my goal.
So probably after seeing the pinwheel pattern I started searching to see if there are any other patterns out there, and hallelujah, I found Grace Fearon. There are so many patterns of hers on Ravelry, one more gorgeous than the next. I was literally sitting on the couch with my mouth hanging open trying to figure out how many I could get into the fireplace spot because I want to make all of them. ALL of them. My husband would faint from crochet doily overload. Well, I absolutely fell in love with ‘Margot’, and found that it is part of Emilyandthe Handmade Volume 1, available on Amazon, so that is where I started. With that book. There are seven designs, including Margot. For some reason I started with the design ‘Eleanor’. It is first in the book, and beautiful, so I got some Aunt Lydia’s Classic 10 crochet thread, grabbed a 1.75mm hook, and got started.
I bought four shades of thread: white, antique white, natural, and cream. I have since added silver and ecru. I started Eleanor with antique white; it took me four days to finish crocheting, and I learned quite a few crochet stitches used to add texture and pattern. Fun! But my doily ended up being 16 inches across; the pattern’s dimension is listed as 12 so I am a bit off. And it seems too big for the space. At that rate I wouldn’t get enough variety, it would fill up with only a few patterns used and I want to use as many as I can (I know, she has way more patterns than I could ever use, she is super prolific). So I put this version of Eleanor aside, for a while, and decided to try something else…
I have a crafter/girl crush on Grace Fearon. She is a crochet lace designer and her patterns are awesomely beautiful. I mean, seriously awesomely fantastically beautiful. I feel like I am technically talented; I can knit or crochet almost anything. But I am not design talented at all, and people who come up with such gorgeous patterns out of their own talent and imagination blow my mind. I literally cannot conceive of how it happens, but I am so glad it does.
You can find her at www.gracefearon.com. She is branding herself with her own name now, but previously was Emilyandthe Handmade; there are books published, available on Amazon, under that name. She can also be found on Facebook and Ravelry; both sites have groups with help, faqs, errata, videos, and pictures of her designs. You can buy her patterns individually on Ravelry; there at least 60 of them right now. Some are free, some can be bought in bundles, some are in books, and she has quantity discounts! Love her! The great thing about Ravelry is you can go to each pattern, and then go to the projects people have shared for that pattern. You can see so many different versions of the pattern, different colors, different sizes from different threads/yarns/hooks, different ways of display or use. It is so inspirational. I recommend going, right now, and getting your own crush on Grace Fearon started.
The temperatures have dropped almost 30 degrees F from the beginning of the week. It feels like fall, in the most perfect way…clear blue skies, low humidity, lots of sun, refreshingly cool in the morning (not quite in the 50s), mid to high 60s predicted for the afternoon…perfect.
And even more perfect, I have a new quilt!
The scrappy Lone Star queen sized quilt is done! I am happy with this. The neutral colors are nice and soft, the star colors are gently random, the background, border, and binding colors get progressively darker, but not by much. It took a day to hand sew the binding, but it was simple, meditative work. As usual, I used cotton flannel for backing fabric; I love how it feels and it kind of grabs onto the sheet or blanket underneath so the quilt stays on the bed better. I’ve only made one quilt with plain cotton backing, and it slides all over the place, so I won’t do that again. There are so many nice flannels to choose from anyway, and 108″ wide, too, so no piecing.; that’s definitely the way to go for me.
The quilting was all machine done. I have not tried hand quilting yet, maybe someday on a much smaller project. I put circular patterns in the corners of the star, then radiating lines from those circles out through the first border that match the lines of diamonds in the big star. The outer border has the feather and column pattern, but it’s kind of hard to see from the front. Like any quilt stitching, it shows up better in some lights than in others. I am still learning how to catch it in photographs. I took a picture from the backing fabric side; it is a little easier to see that way.
Now I have two queen size quilts. I can switch for the seasons, or when I change sheets. One will always be dry, if I have washed the other one. I need a nice quilt box to store one in, but I have room under the bed, so I am well pleased.
The very last step toward finishing my quilt is adding the binding. I use a simple 2.5″ straight grain strip, folded in half, machine sewn to the right side of the quilt, turned to the back, and hand sewn to the backing fabric. I am currently at the hand sewing part. Another strange thing about me and quilting, I usually don’t like hand sewing anything, but I like sewing the binding to the back of the quilt. It is peaceful and just looks so nice. It takes a while, though. When I am done, I will add pictures of the finished quilt. I used wool batting for this one, so it will become the winter quilt for my bed. It is September, but it’s been in the 90s here; I’m sure I’ll be able to use the quilt by the time I finish my hand sewing, though. I’m looking forward to it, for sure.
Whew! The backing fabric is attached, and the only quilting left is the outer most 10 inch border, and that shouldn’t be too difficult. At least I am sewing at the outer edges with most of the quilt supported by my table and big exercise ball; better than trying to sew at the very center of a giant quilt.
This is the stencil I got from The Stencil Company (www.quitingstencils.com) for the outer border. It’s called “Amish Feather Border” and comes in different sizes but mine is 8.5 inches wide. The curving cable part goes with the quilting I did around the central star; the feather part adds extra interest to the cable, and I think it’s really pretty.
And unknown previously, but I love sewing feathers! The swooping back and forth up and down the length of the feather is so much fun. I don’t know if there is a ‘correct’ way to sew them, or if I am doing it most efficiently, but I like whatever it is I do with them.
Now let me just say, my quilting is not very precise. I mark the stencil carefully onto the fabric, and I aim to sew on the lines, but I don’t always make it. And I don’t stress when I miss. As I guide the fabric and free motion machine quilt, my stitches are all over the place length-wise, and when I double back on my stitching, my lines don’t always line up on top of each other. It really doesn’t bother me. Which I find amazing because stuff like that usually drives me crazy. I will sit and analyze a single knit or crochet stitch and debate whether I could make it better, while my quilting is all over the place! Doesn’t matter. It does what it is supposed to do — holds the batting in place between the top and back so it doesn’t shift or clump up, makes pretty, dimensional patterns, and ends up in a quilt that keeps me warm at night. No one is judging my quilts, happily not even me. This is one reason I love to quilt; it feels much freer than the other things I do, and I love the results just as much.
After spray basting my Lone star quilt, I moved on to minimal quilting to attach the backing fabric to the quilt top/batting layer that had already been decoratively quilted together. I stitched around the big star in the middle, out-lining the eight big diamonds with stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. And miracle of miracles, the backing fabric did not shift at all, no wrinkles, pleats, tucks, anything, just smooth flat fabric as far as the eye can see! Amazing.
I use a regular home sewing machine with a regular unextended opening on a fairly basic sewing table, and shoving at least half a queen sized quilt under there and pulling it around with no shifting out of place, again, is amazing. I do put a big exercise ball over on the left to hold up some of the quilt, but still. I am so very happy, even though I am also thinking no more queen sized quilts for a while. Smaller projects should be doable without spray, but the queen sized project was truly saved by using quilt basting spray. I do recommend it, when necessary.
After sewing around the big star, I went on to stitch around the borders, basically two big concentric squares. The last bit of quilting to be done is the outer most border, that needs to have pretty quilting. I didn’t do this bit before attaching the backing because I want the quilting to flow around the corners in a continuous pattern and I thought it would be a good anchor for all the layers around the outer edge.