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Entries in cashmere (1)

Wednesday
Dec182013

Cashmere

It's quite strange what this focus on running is doing to me. I had a horrible run a couple of weekends ago. It was supposed to be 20 miles (or at current pace somewhere around 3 hours 10). But all I could really focus on was how much other stuff I wanted to be doing instead of running, and at 10 miles I just stopped and wound up sobbing in frustration. Poor Clarkie was with me on the bike. It wasn't pretty. I do say nothing makes me quite as emotional as long distance running, but that was a bit extreme!

One of the big things I've been missing is good, solid, making-stuff time. I've been squeezing bits in here and there, but a good big chunk of time hadn't happened for ages. So I took some. Just a day, mind. Not that I got the project I'm about to show finished in a day, but I broke the back of it. It was lovely. I felt significantly more me afterwards, and managed some good runs last week too (not a 20-miler yet though - this weekend maybe).

So, the project. Mum occasionally throws some odd bits and pieces at me, and one time she arrived with a large, pale turquoise, cashmere tunic. The kind that you would expect tall Scandinavian women to wear with leggings and boots. I think she bought it cheap in Florida, it's the kind of thing she does, but sadly this one had been found by moths. Mum thought there was still a lot of cashmere there though, and knows I like a challenge, so had brought it to me to do with what I wanted. I started by throwing it in the freezer, to try and kill off any remaining moths, and then I let it kick around for a while. I don't think I was especially enthusiastic, but, y'know, cashmere.

One day I happened to be working from home. Our house gets a little chilly in the afternoon, what with the heating only being on morning and evening, and I found myself with the cashmere tunic over my legs like a blanket. It was good. Then I noticed the quilt swiss (or jelly) roll pack I had, which was kicking around waiting for me to come up with a cunning plan for it. It was a present from Annie. It had a dark turquoise fabric in, which suddenly seemed to match the cashmere rather well. And lo, a plan was hatched for both. 

I started out by darning the holes in the top. Initially I tried a few different wools I had around, and none of those worked terribly well. In fact, they looked terrible. I got a little disheartened, and decided to switch to unpicking a seam to get it to lie flat. Expensive woollies are mostly knit to shape, so you can unpick the seams without the thing unravelling (cheap ones tend to be cut from a big knitted sheet and fall apart). I did that, and realised I could unravel the shoulders and use that wool to darn the rest. Much better. 

bad darning good darning

Then I made the quilt top, and in one of a number of happy coincidences with this project, the swiss roll created a quilt top of just the right size. I went for a pretty simple pattern. I had three of most of the fabrics, two fabrics in turquoise, two in red and two in brown. So I made squares, then randomly distributed the squares into a top that more or less matched the slightly odd shape of the cashmere. 

With the top made and the bottom sorted, I found I had a piece of cotton batting just the right size left over from another project. Another of those coincidences. So I put a patch over the lousy darning, and got it all pinned together still with the neck and remaining sleeve attached at this point. I left it as late as possible to actually cut the cashmere, to avoid any unravelling. The quilting wasn't the easiest I've ever done because of the stretchiness of the backing (even with a walking foot), so I kept it simple and just followed the shape of the top. This bit always takes loads longer than I think. Longer than making the top, especially when the strips are ready-cut. 

I finished binding it a couple of days ago. I went for a pale cream/beige binding, which again just happened to be in my fabric stash, no idea where from. I had one strip of the turquoise fabric left, which I've interspersed with the cream just to tie it in a bit better. I did a hand-finished binding, which again took longer than I expected. I prepared the binding strip (2.5" wide, ironed in half) then finally trimmed the quilt. I machined the binding strip onto the right side, then rolled it round and hand-stitched down the back. 

Cashmere-backed quilt

There are still a bundle of ends to be sewn in, but that's done enough for me. There are a few imperfections in the quilting too, but it works. You can see the odd shape of the tunic in that photo. The neck and sleeves would have been on the left. It is a perfect length for me when I'm working on my laptop, as it covers from just above my waist to the floor (another coincidence?).

Cashmere-backed quilt 

I find it pretty amazing how binding the project changes the way it feels. Until then, it felt like a lovely piece of cashmere that I was adding extra layers to. After the binding it feels like a single object with a really soft back. I'm intending to spend a lot of time working at home over the next few months, working on a certain large document. I suspect this quilt will see a lot of use.