Sunday, August 24, 2014

Some Progress

A couple of particularly challenging projects have consumed most of my quilting time these days, but I have made progress on a few other projects. I'm working on the last quarter of the second Curvy quilt--finally--and hope to have the top finished by the end of the month. I am going out of town two days this week, and that cuts into my quilting time, but I WILL get this finished up in September, and the colors make it a nice quilt for autumn.

This little quilt, which will be donated, was a kit from a local quilt shop. There wasn't much piecing involved other than the borders, it just took a while to get around to quilting it. There was no pattern information per se, but the kit was called "Safe Harbour".

I finished the quilting on my Bali Stars quilt this morning and took it off the frame. I probably finished this top a couple years ago, and.... it just took a while to get around to quilting it. I am SO happy to say that this is my last big quilt top that had to be quilted. What a good feeling it is to finally be done with everything in the RTQ pile. All I have left are some minis, which are in their own separate pile, and I'll probably do them on my domestic.

I used a pantograph with feathers called "Glamorous", and I love how the quilting turned out. I've had my longarm now for about four years, and I still marvel at being able to make all my own quilts from start to finish.

The pattern for Bali Stars is the cover quilt from Kim Brackett's book, Scrap Basket Surprises.

I learned about the Rainbow Scrap Challenge from someone else's blog last December, but I haven't made much headway. The idea is that a color is chosen the first day of the month, and participants make whatever block they wish and as many as they wish. Every Saturday, the ScrapHappy blog owner puts up a Mr. Linky so participants can share their progress. It's a fun way to get some ideas and see what others are doing.

I chose a 6-inch Dakota Farmer block that was featured in Bonnie Hunter's "Addicted to Scraps" column in Quiltmaker magazine. Bonnie had a drawing on her blog (I think) of how she might put the blocks together, and I liked it, so I ran with it. To complete a small quilt, I need 7 blocks in each of 7 different colors, 49 blocks total. The color last month was red, and I think that's the only month so far that I've managed to get all 7 blocks done. It's not that the blocks take so long to assemble, it's that I'm trying not to use more than two of each fabric in a set of 7, so rummaging through the scrap bins and cutting up the scraps has taken way too much time.

Our local quilt chapter is having its first quilt show for the community in October, and we thought it would be fun for each member to have an apron to wear for the quilt show and maybe some future events as well. We chose a loon from Embroidery Library and added the lettering for the chapter name. Then each member chose which thread color she wanted and the name she wanted embroidered on her apron.

We parceled out some 45 or 50 aprons to a small group of us who own embroidery machines, and I finished my requisite six aprons last Sunday. What a nice idea, huh?

I always have projects on the needles, and I finished a little summer cardigan several weeks ago. The owner of my LYS came up with the pattern from Ravelry. I used a denim yarn, Jesse from Louisa Harding, which has body to it and was perfect for a cardigan. The original pattern, called Emma by Deb Hoss, is a pullover top, but I got help learning how to change the pattern into a cardigan and how to raise the neckline because the original was a lot lower than I preferred. It was a fun knit, and it's been fun to wear.

The weather has been surprisingly cool this summer, which is my kind of weather. One morning last week it was 46 degrees when my husband left for work. Even though it's supposed to warm up to the 80's this week, a few of the trees have already begun to change color in central Maine, so it's time to think about knitting warm sweaters for winter. This is the front of my Notre Dame de Grace sweater, another pattern from Ravelry. (If you're a knitter, and you're not a member of Ravelry, sign up now. There's no fee, and it is a tremendous resource.) I've finished knitting the back, front, and one sleeve, and hope to have the whole sweater finished by Wednesday. Actually, that's a bit ambitious, but that's what I'm aiming for.

The yarn I'm using is Berroco Remix, a mix of cotton, silk and some other fibers, and one of my favorites. Even though there's no wool in the mix, it's still a pretty warm yarn.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Catching Up To August

Good grief, the time goes by quickly. Today is a gorgeous summer day in Maine--breezy, 74 degrees, low humidity, and lots of sunshine--exactly the way a summer day should be in Maine. We've had just a few days of heat and humidity here and there, and I don't think we've hit 90 degrees yet this summer. I'm hoping August will be as nice.

We've had a good mix of rain and sun this summer as well, which has been good for the plants. The hostas are blooming...

...the black-eyed susans are blooming...

...and the tiger lilies are just coming into bloom. I'm not much of a gardener, so it's good these flowers can take care of themselves.

Cherries are in season this month too, and the local grocery has had them on sale for the last three weeks for $2.49 a pound, the lowest I've seen. I bought a couple pounds and made this Cherry Buttermilk Clafoutis, cherries in sort of a custard-type filling. The recipe came from the website, and it was really good.

Tacoma Lakes Quilters had their summer picnic this month, and most of the chapter attended. We always have a potluck edible buffet, which is so good; and this year we tried something a little different--an Inedible Buffet. Each of the participants was asked to make identical items for each person in the group, then all the items were placed in baskets on a table, and we each went round and chose from all the different baskets.

There were 32 participants this year, so we went home with quite a variety of kitchen items, sewing notions, some fabric, and a few miscellaneous items. I think my favorite thing was an awl, something I've wanted for a while and just never bothered to pick up at the store. We had such a good time with the Buffet that we'll do it again next year.
The last weekend in July is also the month that the state guild, Pine Tree Quilters, hosts its annual show in Augusta. It seemed to me that there were fewer quilts this year, but it was a nice show. I only took a few photos of quilts I thought maybe I'd like to make sometime. This one was made by The Fabric Garden quilt shop for some kind of a contest and was one of my favorites. I thought the pattern was called Doubly Charming, but I couldn't find it on the web, so now I'm not sure.

Pineapple, made by Anne Baker

Red, White, and Blue, made by Carmen Dickinson.This was from a pattern by Bonnie Hunter called Smith Mountain Morning. I really liked it done in patriotic colors.

Just Takes 2 Blue, made by Dianne Barth. This evidently was from a block of the month designed by Brenda Papadakis of Dear Jane fame.

Dianne Hire, who is a nationally known quilter, wrote a book called App is For Applique, released in 2013 by AQS. It consists of 14 of these gorgeous, detailed applique blocks, and the 15 quilts that were made with them. Oddly enough, the author only made one block and turned it into a small quilt. MaineQuilts had the exhibit of all the quilts from the book, and they were all fantastic.

I have become quite enamored of the machine buttonhole stitch method of applique, and some of the quilts from Dianne Hire's exhibit were done this way. This block is from a quilt in the show made by Sue Nickels, who seems to do lots of quilts with this machine buttonhole stitch applique. I'm a big fan of Sue Nickels and her sister Pat Holly. 

I also took some classes at MaineQuilts this year, a couple for longarm machine quilters and one called Sliced Steps by Jane Hall. Jane Hall is the pineapple queen of the quilt world, and I have three of her books. She was a delightful teacher and shared some new ideas for paper piecing that I hadn't seen before. 

This was Jane's quilt for the class, and I'm guessing it might have measured something like 22" x 27", so a smaller quilt. A perfect little project for scraps, and not as complicated as it looks. We made a mockup from printed paper samples that Jane gave us; and since it was only a 3-hour class, most of us only got one block sewn. But it was enough to get the idea of how to do it, so I'll work on some more of these blocks. 

As for me, I have been chipping away at four sets of blocks on the design wall. The top half of the Curvy quilt is done, and I'm working on the third quarter of it; the star blocks are for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge; the plaid blocks will be for a friend of mine; and the rest are for a winter quilt designed by another friend. I'm afraid I won't get any finishes this month though.

I did finish the purple String Theory socks though. This is a really nice yarn made in Blue Hill, Maine--it's got a some cashmere in it. I'm also nearly done with a little lacy cardigan, but I've been dragging my feet getting the neckband done. I'll get there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Catching Up to July

We weren't entirely certain if we would have summer or not because it was such a cool spring. Last week it seems to me I got up one morning and it was 59 degrees. But the heat rolled in yesterday, and the humidity rolled in this morning. I went to a friend's for lunch at noon, and it was uncomfortably warm sitting outside on her porch.

When the weather warms in the spring in Maine, growth just erupts everywhere. Hostas are planted on either side of my back walkway, and they are bigger than ever this year, and so are my ferns. I've cultivated them along the tree line, and they're huge.

I've done way more knitting than quilting in the last couple months, but I've gotten a few quilts finished up. It kinda goes in cycles, you know? Our quilt chapter works on some sort of charity project every year, and this year we are donating to Project Linus; so I finished up three strippies for the project. This bugs-in-a-jar fabric is pretty cute, I think.

I also spent some time working on a quilt that one of hubby's female friends at work wanted. I don't normally do consignment quilts, but she's a nice gal and wanted it for her daughter, who is leaving the state for a residency in Utah as a cardiac surgeon.

Quilting Treasures is evidently licensed to print Wizard of Oz fabrics, and I believe they've printed 4 or 5 collections over the years. It was tough finding fabrics that are now out of print, but we managed to find a kit on eBay with sepia toned fabrics.

The seller substituted three different fabrics for ones in the kit, which didn't present too much of a problem; but the cutting instructions in the directions were also incorrect, so cutting and sewing took more time than I anticipated.

The customer also wanted words in the quilt. Piecing letters not only would have been a headache but it also would have changed the dimensions of the quilt, and I was worried about having enough fabric as it was. Hubby came up with the brilliant idea to embroider them.  We were all pleased how the final quilt turned out.

Finally finished the grey leaf patterned socks...

...a pink baby sweater set that languished for a loooong time, waiting for seaming and  buttons...

...and the knit swirl I was working on back in April. I wanted to have it completed by May 30 so I could wear it to a concert. I actually finished it on time but never got a chance to wear it because it was an outdoor concert, and it was 50 degrees and threatening rain that evening.

The design of the sweater is brilliant. It blocked flat before the seaming was done, then I sewed the sleeve seams together and the neck seam. I shortened the sleeves, and they are absolutely perfect. A beautiful sweater that will have to wait for cooler weather before the first wearing.

My younger son graduated in May with two Accounting degrees. He actually has one more course to complete for one of the Accounting degrees, but the university evidently decided to confer both degrees in May, then he gets his diplomas in December when he finishes up. Poor kid has been in school for nearly seven years. He spent two years in community college and earned an Associate's in Culinary Art before he started on the accounting. More skills in this horrible job market is a good thing.

I'm trying to decide what quilt projects to work on in July. I already have several projects kicking around the studio, and I've got a couple of new quilts I want to start for family. I think first up is going to have to be the Curvy quilt I started a few months ago. I taught a workshop in May for my quilt chapter and made just enough blocks to teach the class. Time to get that finished next, I guess.

Credit where credit is due: Whirlwind Quilt by

Friday, April 18, 2014

March-April Knitting Finishes

I got some knitting done when I was too tired to work on the champagne quilt. These are thrummed mittens, with little bits of wool called thrums knitted into the inside of the mitten. I think roving is usually used for the thrums, but I used a single ply yarn, which seemed to work just fine. These were a gift for my sister-in-law.  She lives in northern Virginia, and she may have gotten to wear them a few times before their weather turned warmer.

Our weather is still pretty chilly here in Maine. We had a little snow Tuesday evening, which may have finally all melted away today. We may be getting another dusting in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow. I'm beginning to wonder exactly when winter will end this year.

The emerald socks have been on the needles for quite a while, only because I usually keep a pair available as time fillers for car trips, office appointments, and days when I just can't think. I like the way the yarn pooled in this pair.

I have another pair of socks on the needle already. I'm using String Theory Caper Sock, which has a little cashmere in it, and they are so soft! My feet will be so spoiled! String Theory is made right here in Blue Hill, Maine, and I am waiting for the chance to get up to their store. 

The push is on to get this sweater done. It's from the book Knit Swirl by Sandra McIver, which is a perfect descriptor of the sweater. I started one of these two summers ago but was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of stitches (798) that I abandoned it and thought I'd never try it again.

I have quite a few more knitting projects under my belt since then, so felt quite confident with larger yarn and a cast on of 665. After the first welt, there are lots of decreases, so it goes along faster.

I've set a deadline for myself for May 30 to have this finished, because I'd like to wear it to a spring concert my husband and I are attending.

April Finishes

The last couple of months have been crazy. I spent every spare minute working on a couple of quilts that were to be gifts for friends. My local yarn shop owner was married mid-February. She gave us only four or five days advance notice, so I worked as fast as I could to get this done.

This is what has become known to me as a champagne quilt, so named for the variety of neutrals used in the quilt. I made my niece one several years ago for her wedding. It's a simple enough pattern, but I think it makes a stunning quilt.

I liked the title "Champagne and Roses", so I found several fabrics with roses for the quilt, found a backing that had tan roses on a white background, and asked my friend who machine quilted it for me to use her rose pantograph.

One of these years I might get a champagne quilt made for myself. Alex Anderson has a book on neutral quilts with a nice star block design that I'd like to make.

The second surprise quilt was simply a gift of friendship for someone I've become very fond of. My friend was classically trained as a pianist and has been studying the harp for the last six years. I saw this quilt, called "Symphony in B" in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of McCall's Quilting magazine and couldn't stop admiring it, so finally decided to make it.

Except for the keyboard units, the quilt was really a quick sew. I thought the way the keyboard was constructed was really cool. My younger son, who played a string instrument as a kid and now plays some guitar, saw it after the top was finished and liked it so much that I've ordered another kit for him.

The presentation for both quilts was April 2, and both recipients seemed to be quite pleased with their gifts. A few tears, and lots of hugs and laughter made for a fun afternoon.

Now that those two quilts are complete, I can focus on another Curvy quilt for a workshop I'm teaching for our quilt chapter next month. I made this one last summer, partly because I wanted to try sewing these curves, and partly because I thought maybe it would be something different for quilt group.

For the first one, I went through the stash and pulled a bunch of fat quarters that were mostly red, yellow and green, with a little purple thrown in. For this one, I pulled fabrics that were mostly orange, yellow and green, with bits of blue.

This is my stack of curved units for the whole quilt, 280 in all.

Once the strips were sewn and the curved units cut, I divided up all the units into four piles, and I'll piece a quarter section of the quilt at a time, leaving the last quarter for use at the workshop. Although I like the colors very much, I'm not sure if I'll like this quilt as much as the first one. The scale of most of these prints is much larger than the ones in the first quilt, and maybe that's what's bothering me a little. Maybe I'll like them better after they're sewn together.

Credit where credit is due: Curvy quilt design by Mark Lipinski

Thursday, March 6, 2014

More Knitting Finishes

I really enjoy learning new techniques at my Local Yarn Shop (LYS), so I was pleased when they offered a class in Fair Isle. I'd already learned how to carry yarn across the back of the work, so it wasn't a leap to learn the technique. Fingerless mitts was a perfect little project to start with. Only problem was this pattern does not have a gusseted thumb, but the pattern was easier to maintain that way.

I am crazy about this Boxed Pullover from Nora Gaughn. It's a raglan sleeve with a crew neck. The pattern calls for a bulky weight yarn, so I knit it up in Berroco Lodge. I finished all the knitting in eight days, then spent a few more days blocking and seaming. Earlier this week I bought more Lodge to make a second one, but that might not get done til next winter.

I also made a shawlette to go with it, and I'm crazy about it too. Found this one on Ravelry, called Ambleside Shawl. Very easy to knit, but it takes a while. I used Malabrigo Rastita in a dk weight. The Rastita is a slightly felted wool, very soft; so I bought more of this too in a different colorway for another shawlette.

I've been wearing a lot of wool sweaters lately because it's so blasted cold. It was -12 degrees when hubby got up for work yesterday morning. It seems like winter will never end. 

Quilting Finishes

Nearly everything in January got put on hold because of a surgery scheduled mid month, but I did finish this quilt ahead of time.
It looks a little plain to me, but I liked it anyway after it was done. I bought the fabrics several years ago online and was disappointed with both the scale of the prints as well as the colors. Shopping from catalogs sometimes presents challenges. I saw an opportunity to use them up when one of my quilting pals suggested a challenge from this pattern, which was called "PS I Love You", from the Wilmington Prints website. 

My surgical procedure, which most folks never heard of, was performed to alleviate symptoms of a rare disorder that most folks never heard of. Three hours in the O/R, six incisions across my belly, and an overnight stay in the hospital. Now that the surgery is seven weeks behind me, I'm feeling like my old self again, and most everything that has ailed me for the last three years has finally been resolved. I am a fortunate woman.

Our quilt chapter conducts a Mini Raffle most meetings. It's a fundraiser for the chapter, and members donate all the items. I took a turn in January and made this travel iron tote and donated the iron too. Cute, cute pattern and easy to make. I used silicone fabric for the lining, so you can take it to class, use it as a small ironing mat, then pack up the hot iron in the tote to take it back home. The pattern is from Sisters Common Thread and is simply called "Travel Iron Tote".

I also made some mesh bags from Nancy Ota's line of Zip It bags. This zippered pouch is perfect to carry around all my knitting notions--scissors, markers, ruler, pencil, tape measure, and so forth. I made a smaller wallet size as well. The mesh is vinyl, and is available in a range of colors. A friend of mine has made them for cosmetics, kids' crayons and school supplies, and other creative uses. The pattern, "Zip It ScreenPlay II", includes directions for five sizes.

Nancy has a couple different patterns for mesh totes, and I made the medium size from the "Screenplay" pattern as a birthday gift for someone in my quilt chapter. Haven't made one for myself yet, but I intend to make a couple to use as totes for small knitting projects, like socks. Next time I'll make them a little deeper and make the handle longer.