Thursday, October 25, 2012

64th anniversary tablecloth II: practice

And now, the exciting conclusion of the tablecloth saga!

I should just say that this project was harder than I thought it would be. In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is. One lesson I learned was that the lumps and bumps of the human body are a lot more forgiving than a flat tabletop. Who knew?

My grandparents' anniversary was September 5, the day before my birthday. (I was a 35th anniversary present, a day late.) It's not really fall weather in Dallas, but my grandmother likes fall colors, and their house color scheme is fall-ish, so I went with some orange eyelet I had lying around and brown and cream polyester for the tablecloth. After some sketching, I decided that the color scheme, working in from the largest square, should be orange-white-brown-white-orange-white-brown-white.

When I left off the last post, I had just started cutting the fabric. I was a little worried about having enough of brown and orange, so I figured out a super clever strategy: the smaller squares covered up a lot of the larger ones, so I poached fabric from the larger squares to make the smaller ones of the same color. For the white ones, I cut the two larger squares out separately and then cut the 3rd largest out of the fourth largest.

I also figured out a super-clever way to cut a small square out of the center of a large square: fold the large square in half to get a double-layer isosceles right triangle. Then fold again to get a four-layer isosceles right triangle. Then, keeping measuring tape parallel with side of outer square, move it in until you hit the side length of the small square. (In the schematic on the left, I start with the full square and fold it up into the small triangle. The dotted line in the last triangle is the side of the smallest square.)

Unfortunately, I once again underestimated the difference between theory and practice. It's very hard to get all the layers perfectly flat, and some of the squares I ended up cutting out weren't very square. The large orange one worked out OK, but I had to re-cut some others out of the remaining fabric, which didn't end up being an issue. Oh well, it was a nice idea.

I also messed up the largest white square. I don't know how, but it ended up with sides that were two inches too small. I didn't have a square of fabric large enough any more, so I ended up cutting out four right triangles, the only part visible in each layer, instead of one square.
This is the orange piece with a square cut out of the middle. That white layer is the one I had to make by cutting out triangles instead of a square because I miscalculated the first time.

The construction was pretty straightforward. I started from the innermost square and worked my way out. Instead of doing some sort of turn-under on the sides of each square, I topstitched using a wide but short (many stitches per inch) zigzag stitch. A wide, short zigzag stitch can cover a multitude of sins! I was nervous about the (lack of) square-ness of the squares, and the wide stitch gave me enough wiggle room to make less than straight sides look straight. (If you'll recall from the last post, I had computed the side lengths to the nearest thousandth, and here I was using a quarter-inch wide zigzag stitch-ha!) For each layer, I chose the color that was not represented by the two adjoining squares.

I had some trouble getting the fabric to lie flat. I had to pin a lot more densely than usual, and I also basted the layers. (I'm lazy, and I don't usually baste when I'm sewing.) In the end, I didn't completely get it to lie flat, but it was pretty good.

I went to Dallas for a week in September to be with my mom when she had surgery, so I decided to deliver the tablecloth in person then. Of course, I procrastinated and was trying to finish it the night before I left. Of course, I ran out of orange thread because the zigzags were so thread-intensive, so I had to run to the fabric store the next morning to pick up more. I had time to finish all the zigzags, but I didn't have a chance to do some of the finishing.

The upside to my procrastination was that I got to use my mom's beautiful 1950s-era Singer sewing machine to finish it off. (We think it belonged to a grandmother/great-grandmother/great-aunt, but Mom can't remember exactly how it got passed down to her.) Before I had a machine of my own, I used this one, and now that I am more experienced, I have a better appreciation for what a great machine it is. I had to get her to help me remember how to thread it and insert the bobbin, but once I had it all set up, it was a dream. I don't know how to describe it exactly. It's just a smooth ride. Is there a certain car that's supposed to have a really smooth ride? A Porsche or something? I've never driven a Porsche (or whatever the canonical smooth ride car is), but if I had, I would compare using this machine to driving a Porsche. I love my machine, and it can do zigzags and buttonholes better than Mom's, which requires special attachments, but I wouldn't mind having a machine like hers for straight stitching someday.

Since I had a big hole in the back of the piece from my weird inner square cutting, I used a big piece of leftover white fabric to make a backing for the piece. Here it is before I covered the hole. (I didn't take a picture after. Oops.)

My mom sent me some pictures of the finished tablecloth on my grandparents' table, one of which is posted at the top of this post. I hope they like it. I love and admire them so much, and I hope that our marriage can be as long and as loving as theirs. I often have trouble finding good gifts for them, so I was glad to get to make them something special and creative.

Jon LOVES the design. He's supportive about my sewing, but he's not usually very effusive, and he doesn't often bring a design up later. I might be able to make a present for him along these lines, although I'll probably go smaller/fewer layers. Wrangling eight was a bit overwhelming.

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