Thursday, July 30, 2015

An Underground Railroad Quilt Top DONE!

At the last Underground Railroad class, I kinda got stressed again.  I am a slower sew-ist than my other classmates, and although I got my first block, Shoo-Fly, done just barely in time, I was really lagging behind on the second.
Shoo-Fly (don't bother me)

One reason I was having trouble with the second block was that I was using some fabric I had been given awhile back, that I'm realizing probably isn't 100% cotton.  It's pretty, but it tends to stretch and slip and go wonky without so much as a by-your-leave, and it responds to pressing with a hot iron by ruffling slightly, when 100% cotton just gets crisp and smooth, and smiles up at you, happily awaiting its further journey into becoming a quilt.

Yet I continued to have this idea that I wanted to finish both blocks in class so as not to have to work on them at home.  Thus leaving me free to work on other projects.

Well, think again!  So, I finished the second block at home, the Bow Ties.

See that background fabric, the cream with the little pink hearts?  It's so darling, and I HATE working with it.

I finally had enough!  I went through the remaining baggies containing all my fabric which is cut and ready for the remaining blocks, and I removed every bit of that and a couple of other similarly offending fabrics that had also been given to me, and I vowed never to work with any of this nasty stuff again!

I love getting free fabric, but sometimes, it just doesn't work out.

I recut pieces of different fabric to replace the banished stuff.

Meanwhile, our teacher had suggested we go ahead and make the half-square triangles we would need for the next class in August, so as to be prepared for more complicated tasks.

Determined not to fall behind again, I did that next, and then I thought, the other block we were going to do had Flying Geese in it, and I decided I'd better get a head start on those geese.  They can be kinda tricky.

But then, once I made the geese, it seemed to me that the rest of the block was pretty straightforward.  So I made it.  Geese, flying in all directions, DONE!

Flying Geese

Then I figured the other block would be easy to finish too.  And:  DONE!

Birds in the Air
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I already had twelve blocks, which is plenty for a decent-sized lap quilt.

There are a couple more patterns in the Underground Railroad book, but I'm not keen on doing the Drunkard's Path block, for example, which was slated for our September class.  I've done one before with a different technique, it's fine, but I guess I'm just not crazy about drunkards!

And I've made a sailboat block in the past, too; it's okay but not as appealing to me as the more geometric, mandala-like shapes.

Then there's the Northern Star block, which sounds very poetic, indeed, but I like Carpenter's Wheel better, so…?

So I decided I'm done.  I put my twelve blocks on the design wall.

I pressed and cut and sewed sashing, and the top is DONE!

It's a little too pink for my tastes, but it's probably going to charity anyway;  someone will love it.

I have cut strips for the binding, and hemmed and hawed over what to use for backing so much that I've decided to wait to choose that.  Just some more cutting and pressing and sewing and pinning and quilting and binding--why, it's almost DONE!

Monday, July 27, 2015

More Bowling

A-bowling we will go, a-bowling we will go….

Two friends, 3 sewing machines, fabric and fusible interfacing flying.  The results:



Elisa's is on the bottom right; wish I had a close-up so you could see how cute the fabric is.

Judith's and mine were not quite finished in the above pics;  we still needed to trim the edges with satin stitch.  Hers is the bright, cheerful bowl, and mine is the one with Laurel Burch cat fabric.


Mom (hi, Mom!) saw pics of the first bowl I made and said, "It's lovely.  Please don't make me one."  We laughed and laughed.  She knows me so well!  Of course I was thinking what great gifts these bowls would make!

The cat bowl was intended for a certain loved one who loves cats, however, it is so darn cute, I might have to keep it!  I mean, cats hugging?!  How cute is that?  Looks like I will have to make another!

I think Mom's desire not to receive one has less to do with (the eloquent beauty of) the bowls and more to do with the fact that she is constantly trying to cull Stuff from the household.  I get it:  she really doesn't need any more bowls.  Especially ones that can't hold soup.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Bit of Bowl

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my mom over the phone that I was going to take a class on how to make fabric bowls.

I could almost see, over the air waves, her eyes widening in disbelief.

Mom tends to think sometimes that I am frivolous, if not entirely off my rocker.  Whereas to me, if it's beautiful, you should make it.  Seems entirely logical, if not downright necessary.

I seem to recall she said something like, "Fabric bowls?!  But what can you put in them?!  Certainly not soup!"

Well, no, not soup.  But how about your car keys?  Or other odds and ends that always seem to end up under a pile of other odds and ends, so that the former odds and ends are difficult to find?  Or maybe seashells?  Or pens?  Or…?

Mom sounded unconvinced.  We love each other;  we don't always understand each other!

I took the class and here's the bowl I made.

It is currently holding scraps of fabric, and several pieces of paper with pithy sayings on them--you know, the ones you want to keep but don't know where to put them and are too lazy (or busy) to rewrite them into your journal?

Our teacher, Rodi Ludlum, makes gorgeous fabric vases, too, and puts a small glass vase or spice jar inside them, so you can actually use them for flowers.  That's the next class I hope to take.

The only problem for me was that it turns out my adorable little Janome Gem sewing machine, which I love, does not do satin stitch, i.e., a very dense zig-zag.  Surprise!  Right in the middle of class, I made this discovery.

Rodi kindly let me use her machine, but it would be rude of me to assume I could do the same for the vase class.

Maybe I can rent a machine that does satin stitch.  I really don't want to buy a new machine for classes!  Well, actually, I really do, but I won't spend the money.  My big momma Janome at home has stitches out the wazoo, including satin.  It seems frivolous, even to me, to have three sewing machines.  Mom and I can probably agree on that!

Here's the bowl my friend Elisa made in class--I love it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dragonfly's Progress

I have finally finished the hand appliqué on my first two-color appliqué project.  I originally thought I would add a few borders and make it big enough to be a lap quilt, but I like it so much the way it is, why detract from it's gorgeousness with more "stuff?"  So it will be a wall-hanging.

Here's how the back looks:  my stitches are getting smaller--hooray!

So, time to even up the rectangle a little, add some batting and backing, and get quilting!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Free Quilt Pattern Link: Patriotic String Star

When I took a bunch of scraps from our guild's Community Projects group, I swore I would actually make something with them.  I would not allow them to sit in my stash, forlorn, awaiting that magical day when they would be sewn together into a charity quilt.

After all, I got a free pattern along with those scraps.  No excuses!

Here is a link to the relatively easy, free pattern, Patriotic String Star.  The same website also has a ton of other great patterns!  Free!  And free tutorials!  It's a treasure chest just waiting to be opened!

These blocks are so much fun to make, I back-burnered some other projects to get started on them.

My friend Judith liked the same idea, so we decided to make this quilt together.  She's making some squares on her own, so am I, and we have gotten together a couple of times to make more.

She had the brilliant idea of adding that strip of gold to the red section.  We both balked briefly at figuring out exactly how to do it, but it was such a great idea that we couldn't let it go.

So we fought the fumes of fiber that were befuddling our thoughts.  We figured out that, on certain blocks, the first red strip would be approximately an inch wide, and the next strip would be the gold, and then we would go back to red.  After all, the strips aren't meant to match up exactly.

And it worked!

We've created this secondary design element with the gold, and we are ecstatic.

We got together on the Fourth of July for more patriotic quilting.  I can't think of a better way to spend the day.  We still have something like 19 more blocks to make for the Patriotic String Star, and I was going to make another one or two the next day, but I got sidetracked.

I was going to take a picture of my dining room table covered with red and blue scraps, too, but I forgot, and now I have the fabric for a two-color appliqué pattern (the source of my being sidetracked) taped to the table.  So I'm out of the "string" business until I'm done basting and snipping out the shapes for what my Inner Child insists on calling "Nelliphants."

What are Nelliphants?  Oh, your Inner Child knows the answer to that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Pattern: Symphony Infinity Scarf

I have been champing at the bit to share this new crochet pattern, the Symphony Infinity Scarf.  But I had to practice patience.  (Notice I didn't say "achieve patience.")

I wanted to beta-test this baby out the wazoo, because it is an advanced crochet pattern, and the written directions are complicated.  Plus, I wanted photos for a tutorial, which is included with the pattern.

The idea started out as a blanket, which pattern will be published in due course.

While I was beta-testing the blankie, dear friend Elisa suggested doing something similar in a scarf as well.  So I made this one, just to see how it would work.

Made with Plymouth Encore Colorspun

I like it, especially the interplay of the self-striping colors, but it's a little…pudgy.  This is due to the thickness of the worsted weight yarn as well as the textured crochet stitches.

Nonetheless, I proudly showed it to Elisa, and she suggested doing it as an infinity scarf or cowl, with DK yarn.  I had actually thought about that, but was way too lazy to do it, so I was pretending I hadn't thought about it.  And I was kinda wishing she hadn't, either.

At first.

And then I got the bug.  Because it's a really good idea, so, thank you, Elisa!

I started one with some Sublime yarn I had in my stash, but along the way, Hearthside Fibers contacted me with an irresistible yarn support offer, and they sent me this wonderful, kettle-dyed Polwarth and Silk DK yarn!

I gotta say, I love working with this yarn--and not just because they sent me some gratis.

It's springy and light, cushy, smooth, soft, and so easy to crochet!  And not splitty at all.

And the colors are, dare I say, sublime?

That price tag is for 700 yards, btw, which is a good 200 yards more than I needed for the scarf, which measures 8" wide by 52" around.  (Instructions are included in the pattern for making a shorter or longer scarf.)

The Hearthside people are planning to make up some smaller skeins, which will be easier to wind, too.

They may even make up some kits!  Pretty exciting!

Crochet tends to be a little thick, heavy, and/or stiff compared to knitting, especially if you're making an accessory or a sweater.  But this cowl/scarf drapes beautifully.

It's also relatively lightweight despite having a lot of texture.

So, the pattern is available here in my Etsy shop, and on Ravelry, where you can also get it wholesale if you are an LYS.

And the yarn?  Check out Hearthside Fibers.  (They have other yarns, too.)


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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yarn Migrations in the Wild

Welcome.  Today we study the migratory habits of a non-indigenous coastal yarn species, the Colinette Cadenza.  This yarn originally travelled from Wales to the United States.  Finding a congenial ecosystem, it has proliferated.

This particular sub-species, "Apricot Smoothie," discovered in a sale basket in Tennessee, made its way to the West Coast in a plastic bin.

Some yarns require "binning," as it is known colloquially, longer than others, but eventually they, too, are ready for the long journey from hank or skein to finished object.

Let's take a closer look.

It is late spring, an exciting time for DK and sport weight yarns, as well as fingering and lace.

Here, the DK weight Colinette Cadenza emerges from its cocoon after a long series of winters in the binning phase.

Free now from its protective pouch, the yarn makes its way toward swift and ball winder.

One hank has fastened itself onto the swift, while the others jockey for position below.

The skeins seem eager to be wound.

Tension on the swift?  There should be some, but not too much.

Good news: even though this is Colinette, this hank is not tangled.

Somewhat like the traditions surrounding Groundhog's Day, an easily wound skein is said to predict a good wool harvest and a good shawl design.

But wait!  The ball winder is pulling too hard.  It's the only thing causing the swift to move.  The swift has no momentum on its own.  This light, fluffy yarn is being stretched too tight and thin.

This spells disaster for the life cycle of this yarn species.

Alarmed, the yarn races away from the swift in search of better winding grounds.  Its survival instinct has saved it.  A narrow escape, indeed.

Back to basics:  one adventurous skein has found its way to the portable table swift, which has assembled itself on a nearby coffee table.  The portable swift waits for yarn to come to it, knowing sudden moves can scare off its prey.  This swift's patience has been rewarded.

The ball winder, seeing its opportunity, leaves its perch on the vertical swift.  It now sports a handle instead of a clamp, an evolutionary necessity due to the sensitive nature of the coffee table.

There is some tension and stretching of the yarn here as well--a good reason not to wind one's yarn until one is ready to use it, to minimize stretching time--but at least there is not as much distortion as with the other swift.

And now, yarn wound, it waits.

The gestation of a design can take many months or just a few minutes, or anything in between.  It is impossible to predict.  Many ideas occur in pool or shower, or on long walks.  During such excursions, it is best to leave the yarn at home in a cool, dry location, out of the sun.

Will this particular batch of yarn remain free and ready to knit, or will it be forced to find its way back into a bin, much as a bear returns to its den to hibernate each winter?  Only time will tell.

Next time, join us for "Quilt Gestation:  Why It Takes So Friggin' Long To Quilt One Lousy Quilt."