Tuesday, March 22, 2016

February Finishes

I have a friend I email back and forth with nearly every day, even though she just lives down the street and round the corner. She's busy, I'm busy, so we email. I went to an operetta with her Sunday, and she complained that she'd been doing most of the writing lately. She said she won't hear from me for several days, then I write her a five-page email.

I've been like that since I was a kid, hating to sit down and write, procrastinating, then spending an hour writing a really long letter. My husband deployed often during our 30+ years of married life, and it drove him crazy too. Now here I am, doing the same thing with blogging. I guess it's feast or famine with me, and it's a habit I'd sure like to break. I am not, however, going to write a lengthy blog post today. I'll spread it out over a few days. Maybe, lol.

I have been off in ten different directions in the sewing room over the last month or so and having a ball. I did finish three quilts in the month of February. Two were ufo's, and that's always a good feeling.

The first Quilt of Valor for the year has been finished, and I started the next one right on time on March 1. Credit where credit is due: "Tree Farm Throw" from a Thimbleberries booklet called Triple Treat. It is perhaps just shy of the required size for a QOV, but I think it will do. I named it "Let Freedom Ring".

The Candystripes quilt is finished too, and I am SO glad to have this one out of my hair. The top of the next charity baby quilt, with the 36-patch blocks, is finished and waiting to be quilted.

Lastly, my Lazy Sunday is finished at long last. Other than the fact that I wished I had mixed up my background fabrics, I like it a lot. I quilted it with a feather pantograph--I love feathers. Another project I am very happy to have done and on a bed. Yay! February was a good month!

Credit where credit is due: designed by Bonnie Hunter, published in Quiltmaker magazine.

I finished a couple of knitting projects too. I'm not a hat person but decided I might be a headband person. Sometimes my ears get numb when the winter wind is blowing, so I knitted this up in just a day with some chunky Malabrigo I'd forgotten about in one of my bins.
I also finished this Honey Bee sweater from a pattern on Ravelry. I knit it with Berroco Remix, a favorite yarn of mine. The knitting and seaming has been done since November, just needed to set in one sleeve. Occasionally procrastination does pay off; not so in this case, I could have been wearing it all winter. We just had 4 or 5 inches of snow yesterday though, so still some winter left up here.

Progress with the kitchen redo is glacier-like. The new drywall on the ceiling is up, but there is nothing of interest to see yet. We're considering laying cork flooring, which we have no experience with. Glue-down seems to be the way to go; multiple bad reviews for the click together tiles, especially if it gets wet.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Good Week

Weather up here in Maine seems to be particularly difficult to predict, and I don't know why. Case in point (and there are many): Friday I was scheduled to take my friend to her doctor's appointment. I knew there was snow in the forecast, but I double checked the forecast in the morning right before I left the house at 8:00, and I wasn't worried. They were only predicting 3-6" of snow.

Her appointment lasted about an hour, we had a little lunch in the hospital cafeteria, and headed back to her house. The drive was bad and worsening by the time I dropped her off and headed home. I nearly lost it twice at the intersections because the snow was so wet and slippery. By the time I got home about 1:30 in the afternoon, we had 8-1/2" on the ground; and we got another inch and a half by the time the storm ended.

Yesterday the original prediction for Monday night and Tuesday was snow showers. This morning I measured five more inches on the ground, and I noticed the forecast had been updated. The weatherman must have finally looked out his window and revised the forecast. Sheesh!

Although I didn't get as much time for sewing as I would have liked over the last week and a half, I did manage to finish the QOV top. Still need to find some backing fabric and get it loaded for quilting.

The Candystripes top is also finished. I didn't particularly enjoy making this quilt . I was glad I only had to suffer through making a 36" square quilt. I also learned I don't care for pastels. 

I had bunches of 4-patch units left over; and since I didn't want to make another Candystripes, I started making 36-patch blocks out of them. I had exactly enough 4-patch units to make 9 big blocks.

This quilt, which will also be donated, needed to be about 36" square like the first one. A horizontal set wasn't going to get me there, so I set them on point, and that'll put it a little over 38", so I'm good to go. I've made one of the alternate blocks and have set a few triangles in place for the remaining blocks and setting triangles.

Wish I could credit this to a designer, but I found the photo in a quilt catalog from some company I never heard of, and it wasn't credited in the catalog. They simply called it "Postage Stamp Stars". I get these oddball catalogs once in a while, probably because one of the magazines sold my name to a hundred different places.

The red Twisted Ribbon is finished, and I put all of them on the design wall to motivate me to keep going. I have five more ribbons to make, two browns, two greens, and a blue-green. There are no borders on this quilt, so when the columns are done, the quilt top will be done.

Finished my sister-in-law's socks and mailed them to her. She received them and sent me back photos of how they fit--perfect! Yay!

I love scraps and have been given many over the years. Our quilt group has an auction every other year as a fundraiser; and they always have a multitude of scrap bags too, so I usually buy a few bagfuls. I think it's great fun to see what other people are sewing with, and it's a great resource for little bits of this and that that I don't have in the stash.
Bonnie Hunter had a photo on her blog recently showing some scrap sorting she was doing on her living room floor. I was inspired by that photo enough to dig out a scrap bag from the auction and go through it.

It needed to be washed to remove some odor, and it's a job I absolutely dread because it always becomes a horribly tangled, wrinkled mess. Even washing them in a mesh laundry bag in the washer hasn't helped.

This time I tried a different approach. I sorted the scraps into three bins in the tub, one each for lights, mediums, and darks. After adding a little liquid soap, I mashed them up and down in the wash water, rinsed them the same way in clean water with vinegar (for total odor removal) in it, spin-dried them in the washer, and tossed them in the dryer.

What a difference! Much less fraying and tangling, and they came out of the dryer all fluffed up and relatively wrinkle free. After sorting them the way Bonnie was doing, an XL Stor-It bag stuffed with scraps has been tamed into nice neat piles.

It will probably be about three months to finish the renovation in the kitchen. Hubby has commenced the demolition, and the contractor will be out next week to measure the spaces and write up the contract for the cabinetry.

The kitchen is probably original to the house, built about 1950. At present there are only cabinets on two walls, and this doorway to the dining room is at the end of one of the walls. The white cabinets in the dining room (homemade by a previous owner) had to be angled at the front because of the doorway. It's quite awkward.

Everyone seems to be quite charmed by the blue metal cabinets, but I can't stand them and can't wait to get rid of them. We're installing red birch instead.

Now the doorway has been moved over, widened, and framed in. A space has been cut in the adjoining wall to set in the refrigerator, which was next to the stove. We'll have a floor to ceiling pantry and appliance closet on that same wall, cabinetry on three walls in total.

A soffit over the cabinets also had to be removed. Hubby finished that work over the weekend, and some order in the kitchen has now been temporarily restored. Things will be inconvenient and messy for a while, but it'll be worth the wait.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

First Finish for 2016

Missed my post last week, but there's little to report. Hubby and I are beginning extensive renovations in the kitchen, and renovation in one room always seems to affect three or four others. We're shifting furniture around and having to develop creative storage ideas, so not much sewing is getting done right now.

I did manage to finish the binding on Rooster Tales. I presently have blue metal cabinets in my kitchen and thought the quilt would go nicely in there, but that will all change in the next several months. Now I'm not sure what to do with this quilt, but at least it's done.

Credit where credit is due: "Checkerboard Tiles" by Bethany Reynolds.

If I hadn't been desperate to have a piece of fabric to use for the workshop (years ago), this could easily have been a what-was-I-thinking moment. I used up as much of the original fabric as I could for the back. Plus I think it's always fun to see what the original fabric looked like.

I also finished the yellow-green ribbon on the left and got most of the pieces for the red ribbon set in place. After the red ribbon is finished, I'll finally be able to sew three vertical rows together. That's progress!

 I'm coming along nicely on sister-in-law's socks. I just finished the heel gusset and started the foot.
See how the heel is checkered with gray and brown? I learned a new way to reinforce the heel area from Lucy Neatby's sock class on Craftsy. Not only does it provide reinforcement and some extra cushion, but the heel is a bit more interesting.

Have you collected any or all of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks magazines? They're up to Volume 12 now. Bonnie Hunter seems to have a block in just about every issue; and I'm a big fan, so I like to get the magazines. At one point the designers were receiving these special 100 Blocks mugs, but they weren't available to the general public, which is a shame. A couple weeks ago, I happened across an online vendor who had two of them for sale, so I snapped them up! Each mug is different--one for Volume 2 and one for Volume 4. I think these are so cool, and I'll be on the lookout for more of them.

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Knitting Projects

I am as passionate about my knitting as I am about my quilting, well, except for maybe this past year. I finished a measly five quilts last year, compared to 28 knitting projects--several dishcloths, three sweaters, several pairs of socks, and bunches of hats, cowls, and shawlettes. I taught myself how to do toe up socks last year too. Not nearly as difficult as I imagined.

The Willow cowl, a pattern available on Ravelry, was finished right at the end of the year. The pattern calls for decreases as you work upwards, and I thought it was interesting the way the yarn started pooling right at the top, an effect I don't mind. In fact, I wish the whole cowl had worked up like that.

This is the way the cowl would look if you were wearing it. The rows of stockinette sort of collapse on themselves, and the lace sections look like coils. And I love that picot edge.

I've started a pair of plain socks with self-striping yarn for my sister-in-law who visited just after Christmas. I thought I'd try out a 9" cable for the cuff before putting both socks on one longer circular. The 9" cable takes a bit of getting used to, but it's fun to just knit round and round.

I love learning new techniques, and I saw workshops for Swing-Knitting on Ravelry last year but didn't get the time to try it out. There are eight different workshops plus two sock workshops, and the author wrote that you can learn all the basics in the first three workshops. So I purchased the first workshop a few weeks ago. The project for the workshop is a pair of wristlets, sort of like leggings, only for your arms. Never knew there was such a thing. Fingerless mitts never made sense to me either until I actually made a pair and wore them.

Anyway, swing-knitting creates these interesting asymmetrical curves through the use of german short rows. I think it's similar to the construction of the Dreambird shawl on Ravelry. The author likens the knitting to music--there are "stanzas", and "pauses", and you "swing the beat". I couldn't grasp the terminology until I'd knitted a bit, but the knitting is not difficult. It goes quickly and is really very absorbing.

The wristlet is knit flat, then the long seam is closed with Kitchener stitch. I could probably do Kitchener stitch with my eyes closed now. The edges are a little unattractive, so I'm going to get one of my knitting pals to show me how to add a little crocheted edging.

I may be the last to know, but I discovered Craftsy last year and have taken several of their knitting classes. They're very reasonably priced if you wait for a sale, and the instructors and videos are fantastic. I will be expanding my knitting skills even more this year. Right now, Lucy Neatby is offering a free Sock Knitalong on Craftsy. Besides the instructional videos, instructions for three patterned socks are included; and one of those is for a pair of toe up socks. Great time to learn the toe up method, if you're so inclined. Craftsy also offers a bunch of free classes and tutorials, and they have lots of quilting classes too.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quilter At Work

I'm glad the holidays are over, but I hated to take down the Christmas tree because I was enjoying the lights in the evenings. So we just took it down Tuesday, in time for pickup on Wednesday.

I've been a busy bee in the sewing room the last week and a half, organizing and lining up projects for the month. There are six, including three UFOs, but some will be ongoing. First up is a Stack 'n Whack, from a Bethany Reynolds workshop back in 2008. I actually blogged about it back then, and it's languished. It only needs one more side of the binding stitched down, and it will be finished.

Candystripes is another UFO from a very long time ago. The project is from an issue of American Patchwork & Quilting, and it was originally to be for my niece. After I made over 100 of the four patches, I realized that it wasn't really suitable for a kid her age, so... it languished. Now our quilt chapter is working on quilts for incubator babies, so I'll make small quilts, about 36" square or so, until all the four patches are used up. This is the first--6 rows of blocks x 9 blocks down. Maybe I'll have enough for three little quilts.

The Twisted Ribbons quilt I started last year for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge was resurrected and is the last of the UFOs to be worked on this month. There were 12 ribbons in all, and I'm working on the 6th, so it will be an ongoing project for a few more months. I decided not to start this year's RSC until the Ribbons are finished.

Moonglow is a Block of the Month pattern from Jinny Beyer that's been around for a decade or more, maybe two. A knitting pal of mine started it when it first became available, made three blocks, then it languished. Last year she talked to me about helping her get it finished because she'd invested quite a bit for the kit. She'd made the first three blocks with templates, and she'd had a little trouble with them; so we ripped them apart, and I taught her how to paper piece. Her sewing skills are rusty, so I wound up remaking the first one for her and will remake her next two, then start her out fresh with block 4.

I'd always wanted to make the Moonglow quilt too, so I found a kit at Plum Creek Quilts for a ridiculously low price and bought it. My first block is finished too; but I have to say, I much prefer the colors in my friend's quilt. Unluckily most of her fabrics are no longer available.

Project Five is Talkin' Turkey, from Bonnie Hunter's string quilts book. One of my dearest friends and I decided to work on this together in the new year. Late last year she was diagnosed in stage 4 cancer; but she's decided to forge ahead with me, so Sundays will be our Turkey Tracks (as we're calling it) days. The plan is to make 10 of these string-pieced blocks at a time until all 120 are done, then we'll move on to another kind of unit. I made a few blocks for the border too. Her treatment program gives us hope, so we plan to see this through to the end.

The first Quilt of Valor in a series of six this year is in progress. It is from a kit purchased two summers ago at MaineQuilts. The pattern is from a Thimbleberries book and is so simple to make. The fabric does all the work in this one.

That's good, to have a quick one for this month, because I have other projects to finish! I have at least two more QOV's that will be made using panels, but I'll alternate them with ones that are all pieced.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Fresh Start

New Year's is not a holiday we celebrate particularly, but I look forward to it because it's a chance to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Even so, I don't typically make New Year's Resolutions because I never keep them. Oh, I think about the same things everyone else thinks about--exercising more, dieting, being kinder to my fellow man; but I know myself pretty well, and I'm as likely as not to let those things fall by the wayside pretty quickly. (Well, maybe except for the last one.)
There are a few things in the quilting studio I really want to accomplish this year. The first might be to start blogging again. It's been a very long time since I blogged. I didn't quilt hardly at all after the beginning of summer last year (although I knitted like a possessed woman); and generally if I don't quilt, I don't blog. I contemplated whether I should delete my blog, but I am loathe to do it after writing it for seven years. I also realized how much I missed reading the quilting blogs, hearing from a few favorite bloggers occasionally, and being part of online challenges. Most of the time it's hard to get my quilting friends locally to work together on a project, and that is something I especially enjoy. I can do that with quilting bloggers online. So I'm having another go at blogging. If I could post once a week, I'd feel like a Resolution had been met.
Another thing I'd like to do this year is make six Quilts of Valor, beginning this month, and making another every other month. I subscribe to Fons and Porter "Love of Quilting" magazine, which prints six issues a year, and there's a QOV in every issue (which I may or may not use). As a veteran, I appreciate very much that they do this; and it's something I'd like to be part of. I've started on the first one already--a very quick and simple quilt with a large center panel. Photos to follow.
I'd like to do the Rainbow Scrap Challenge again this year (although I can't think why exactly since I haven't finished the last two!). I like the quilt that Angela (I think that's her name) has devised this year, a column quilt, which I think will be fun to work on.
Of course there's the perpetual Resolution to finish more UFOs, and I have an abundance of those (don't we all?). And I would very much like to have the discipline to limit the number of quilts in progress so as to actually get things finished. That's the hardest thing for me. We'll see where it all goes.
Happy New Year to all!

Friday, May 29, 2015

On the Design Wall

I swear I don't know where the time goes. The color of the month for May for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge was green, and I finished up my green ribbon this morning. I stayed mostly on the cool side of green; and since green will appear in my quilt more than once, I set aside a pile of warmer greens for future use.

This green ribbon is adjacent to the blue one and is also the last one on the right side of the quilt, so there are plain squares at the edge that make a border on that side of the quilt. I'm getting a little more daring with multicolor prints in these ribbons because it seems to be more interesting than plain tone on tones.

See what others are working on here.

I also finished up the yellow Dakota Farmer blocks from last year's RSC and started sewing some of the blocks together. This block was from Bonnie Hunter's "Addicted to Scraps" column in Quiltmaker magazine, and she has a layout for it on her blog. I just realized this morning, looking at the picture, that there's a border of 3" dark blue half square triangles around the whole quilt. Not sure yet if I'll actually add that border, but probably. Perhaps it will look unfinished otherwise.

Orange is the last color that goes in the quilt, and I've started cutting for those. All throughout the quilt, I tried to use background prints that were white or off-white with motifs matching the same color as the stars and not repeat them more than twice. I've managed to pull that off so far, but I just don't have enough background prints with orange in them to make this last batch of seven blocks work that way. Sue Nichols uses all those fancy embroidery stitches built into her machine to create her own backgrounds, so I might try that with a few of mine. Coincidentally there's an article in the Quiltmaker magazine that just hit the newsstands with the very same idea.

I have a little bit more quilting to do on the Cascadia quilt. I'm just doing some quilting in the ditch as it doesn't really need much to hold the layers together. Sometimes I wish I had time to do some hand quilting, but I'd never get it done. Besides I'm not sure I could hand quilt without a hoop, and this little quilt measures about 16" x 17".

This colorful fellow showed up at the bird feeder the other day. I was very surprised to see a pair of Baltimore Orioles at the feeder last fall, and evidently they've come back. The photo doesn't do that gorgeous orange color justice.