Saturday, January 31, 2009

First Finish for 2009

I've said it before, I'm a procrastinator from way back, and I put off quilting this small watercolor quilt for at least.... 9 years. I made it my project for the One Project a Month challenge. And in the spirit of procrastination, I waited until January 26 to get started quilting it. And now it's done! Made it just under the wire!

I couldn't decide whether to use monofilament or regular thread to quilt it, and I finally decided to use a 100 weight thread called Invisafil. I can't remember now if it's polyester or cotton, but I like the way it looks on my watercolor squares. I'll be using it again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sock Update

I haven't spent five minutes in my sewing room since I finished the last Star BOM block; and there was absolutely nothing to add to the Sunday Stash Report, so I didn't bother to do one. Truthfully, I haven't been able to tear myself away from knitting this pair of socks since I started my class.

I finished the first sock this morning, except for weaving the toe closed, and I've turned the heel on the second sock. There are plenty of imperfections in the socks, and I suspect they may be a little large; but I'm so excited I was actually able to knit myself a pair of socks!

Tomorrow night in class, I'll learn the kitchener stitch to close the toe; and we'll begin a dishcloth. I can't help but think that a dishcloth will be a cake walk after making a sock.

Our temperatures have hovered at or below zero for several days now, and lots of us around the country are experiencing the same frigid temperatures. The Southern and Central Plains weathered 36 hours of continuous freezing rain, and the storm has now moved up into Central Maine. We are expecting 1 -2 feet of snow today, on top of the 21 inches we already have on the ground. I stuck a ruler out in the yard this morning, so I can measure how much we actually get.

Global warming is real... and it's dangerous.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Star BOM Block 13

I modified both the orientation of the larger star as well as the appearance of the center star in this last block in Judy Laquidara's Star BOM series. I liked the idea of having two star-in-a-star blocks in the quilt, and I preferred this variation.

I drafted the rest of the quilt already, and I'll get started on the sashing next. I am so good at starting new projects and so bad at finishing them; so I want to keep the forward momentum going instead of waiting until May, when the last installment is published, or who knows when to finish the top. I've got a fighting chance this way!

Sunday Stash Report

The Sunday Stash Report is completely uninteresting today--nothing in and nothing out. Oh, wait, today is Monday, isn't it? No matter. I worked most of the week; but lest you think I was idle in the sewing room, I did finish the last Star BOM block, made a diamond hexagon block for the Great Hexagon Quilt Along, and knitted a little on my socks.

This past Friday was the first Casey's Quilters meeting of the new year. The planned project was these tissue box covers. I think maybe 9 or 10 ladies made them, but a couple ladies left early, so this was what was left. Everyone seemed to have a different brand of tissue, and every box was sized slightly differently, so each pattern had to be tweaked a little for a snug fit. Why don't they make these all the same size?

I decided not to make a tissue box cover and worked on this diamond hexagon block instead. Each hexagon finishes to one inch on each side, so roughly the block finishes to about 13-1/2" x 8.5". I think at this size I'd have to make 100 or more blocks to make a queen-sized quilt (gasp!). For a queen-sized quilt, a larger hexagon may be more appropriate, so I'm going to try a bigger hexagon that will finish to either 1-1/4" or 1-1/2" on each side. With a larger hexagon I may be able to machine piece at least some of them when I'm home. Either way it will take a month of Sundays to get them all done.

I handpieced this first block using the Inklingo software. With Inklingo you can print the hexagons, complete with cutting lines, stitching lines, and alignment marks, directly to fabric, thereby eliminating most of the prep work associated with English paper piecing. It's so much faster, and I can get right to the fun part--the stitching. Several different collections of shapes are available in the Inklingo format, and I can see myself wanting to try some other projects. Linda Franz, who conceived the idea of printing shapes directly to fabric, just released a new Apple Core collection. Imagine how easy it would be to print apple cores right to fabric instead of having to prepare templates and trace around each one! In my sidebar, the link for Inklingo takes you a page for hexagon quilters, but if you click here you can watch a free video explaining the concept.

BarbD had this quilt for Show and Tell. Isn't it beautiful? It's from the book Calming The Storm by Darlene Zimmerman and Joy Hoffman. What interested me about this quilt is that it uses the Tri-Recs rulers, which I bought last year for a project. The book shows some different ways to use these rulers, so I'll get more use from them.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Look! I'm a Knitter!

Well, not really, but I'm learning. I once had a friend who knitted a pair of socks for me, and I loved them and have wanted to learn how to knit socks ever since. Not scarves or hats or mittens, just socks. I've never knitted before in my life, and my quilting friends who also knit told me I couldn't start with socks, so I never bothered to learn.

A couple weeks ago my friend DonnaB mentioned that she was teaching a sock knitting class at a local craft shop. She said it was just fine if I'd never knitted before, so I signed up for the class.

She did tell me it would be helpful if I could at least learn the knit stitch and the purl stitch, so I bought a couple of books, a pair of knitting needles, and a skein of inexpensive yarn. I sat down one evening with one of the books, I Can Knit, which is supposed to be a book for preteen girls. I couldn't make heads or tails of it, so I ditched it and moved on to the second book.

The second one had what looked like a pretty good series of step by step photos; but try as I might, I just couldn't seem to understand how to cast the stitches onto the needle. I tried holding my hands and the yarn just like the photos, but it still wasn't making any sense to me. Meanwhile my husband, who was sitting on the sofa with me watching television, was also watching me out of the corner of his eye and snickering. He finally got to laughing so hard that I couldn't concentrate anymore. By then I was pretty close to heaving it out the window anyway. He suggested I try to find a video on YouTube.

Turns out there are all kinds of knitting videos on the internet, and as soon as I watched someone actually cast on stitches, it all clicked and away I went. I taught myself the knit and purl stitches, which was a huge help once I got to class.
Working with two knitting needles is awkward for me because I'm new at it, so what's two more? I really didn't think working with four was much more difficult. This is the top of the sock, the ribbing, which is two inches long, and I'm thrilled that it actually looks like it's supposed to. Before the next class I'm supposed to knit five more inches, which will be easier and faster than the ribbing. At the next class we're going to work on the heel, which looks a little more intimidating.

Not bad for my first time, eh?

Star BOM Blocks 5-12

Here are the rest of the blocks (except one) from Judy Laquidara's Star BOM project. I changed the color placement in a few of these, and I also changed the pattern a little bit in blocks 8 and 11 to suit me. For the last block, I'll be using a star in a star like Judy's, but I'm orienting it a bit differently.

Of all the colors in the spectrum, orange is my least favorite color, but I learned to appreciate it after making Bonnie Hunter's Orange Crush. Purple and yellow are also colors I'm not especially fond of, but I'm enjoying working with them in this quilt. This is a nice set of blocks, and I've had fun making them.

After the last block is made, I'm going to start working on the sashing, then after that start working on the paper pieced ribbon border. That should keep me busy for a while!

Sunday Stash Report

I got alot more done this week than I expected to, but I didn't get this little strippy loaded as I'd planned. The yardage was already counted in last year's totals, so nothing gained there. Along with finishing this top, my little crosstitch ornament, and the pillowcases, I also finished 12 of the 13 Star Block of the Month blocks. The last block has been cut out, so I've now used a total of 4-3/8 yards in these blocks. I also received a Keepsake medley in my mail this week, which added a yard and a half.

Here is the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 4-3/8 yards
Fabric used year to date: 6-5/8
Fabric added this week: 1-/2 yards
Fabric added year to date: 1-1/2 yards
Net year to date: 5-1/8 yards

This week I'd like to quilt my strippy and bind it, finish the last Star block, and start piecing one of these hexagon blocks. You may have noticed a new logo in my side bar for the Great Hexagon Quilt Along. This is a new blog started by a couple of quilters who were interested in making this hexagon quilt. Other quilters were invited to participate in recreating this quilt or working on a hexagon project of their choosing. I've been interested in working on some kind of handpieced quilt like this for quite a while, so I decided to give it a whirl. Thanks to Robyn at DaisyQuilts for doing this.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January WISP

WISP--that would be Works in Slow Progress (otherwise known as UFOs), which is the name Kris is using for her One Project a Month Challenge; and this quilt will be my project for January.

Does anyone make watercolor quilts anymore? Watercolor Bars is one of two watercolor quilts I made back when I was living overseas, so it's probably 9 years old. This one was made square by square, as opposed to the second one which was made with strips which were then cut apart to make four identical blocks. I really enjoyed making this one, but was it ever time-consuming to choose each and every square. I'd really like to make another one.

It started out life as a round robin. At the time, I couldn't fathom how a watercolor round robin would work.... and apparently neither could any of my four swap mates, because what I got back was a mish mash of squares with no discernible pattern whatsoever. I'm pretty sure theirs were no better. I took all the squares apart and reassembled them into this bar pattern, the goal being to reuse every single square that had been part of the original project. I remember now I only had a very few squares left over that I simply couldn't find a place for.

Probably the main obstacle to completing the quilt back then was indecision about how to quilt it. This morning I made the monumentous decision to simply quilt diagonal lines through each square. The second obstacle was deciding to use either invisible nylon or regular thread. I'm really not crazy about invisible nylon because of the shine, but in a quilt with so many colors like this one, it would probably work very well.

In any case, I have the entire month of January to finish it and fulfill my challenge obligation, so I'll spend the rest of this week choosing backing, creating the quilt sandwich, and choosing some thread. No need to rush into it, is there?

My pillowcases to go with the Tug of War quilt are finished, and I put together the little chickadee ornament last night. The glue is dry, and it's finished! The back of it looks just like the one on the right, which is a little nutcracker I made long time ago. I want to work on some other ornaments this year, mostly but not all crosstitch--the list of things to do in '09 is growing! I also finished sewing another strippy top but haven't loaded it for quilting yet. I'm going to do that probably this evening.

It's snowing in Maine today, and the weatherman has predicted 4-8 inches. The weathermen are rarely correct up here, and I'll be surprised if we get four inches, especially since right now it's sleeting. Soup is perfect for supper tonight!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

Today was a sunny, windy and very cold day. I think I am finally on the back side of the vertigo, thank heavens! Today is the best I've felt since New Year's Eve, and I took only a single dramamine tablet early this afternoon. I was even able to look down without my head spinning, so I cut and sewed a couple of pillowcases this evening to go with the Tug of War quilt I just finished.

What you can't see in the photo is a small balsam tree that was sitting on the corner of my table. I watered the tree earlier (do you know what's coming?); and yes, unbeknownst to me the water spilled over the pot onto the table and onto the piece of paper that now looks like watercolors in the upper left corner of the photograph. My new pillowcase that I just finished soaked up some of that color from the page. Horrors!

I immediately rushed it into the laundry room, sprayed it with a little prewash, and threw it in the wash. Most all the stain came out, and what's left I don't think will be noticeable. Whew!

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 2-1/4 yards
Fabric used year to date: 2-1/4 yards
Fabric added this week: 0 yards
Fabric added year to date: 0 yards
Net year to date: 2-1/4 yards

Gee, it's nice to be on the positive side again!

We took down the Christmas tree and all the trimmings today. We usually take it down New Year's Day, but we decided to wait til the weekend and enjoy it a little longer. I love the smell of fresh greenery in the house, looking at all the little handmade ornaments, and remembering Christmases past, so I don't look forward to taking it all down. Once it's down though, I'm happy to reclaim the space in the living room and have things back to normal.

This week my goals are to finish the second pillowcase, assemble the little chickadee crosstitch into an ornament, finish piecing and load another strippy on the longarm for practice, and make some headway with the Star Block of the Month blocks. I haven't looked at it for quite a while, and I think I'm six blocks behind. I intend to finish all of the blocks by the end of the month!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Last Finish for 2008

I woke up the morning of New Year's Eve with terrible, incapacitating vertigo, which I've never had before. Has anyone else ever experienced this? I couldn't move my head more than a couple of inches without the room spinning and getting sick to my stomach, and I spent the entire day and evening in bed. Since New Year's Eve, dramamine (for motion sickness) has helped immeasurably and enabled me to be both ambulatory and somewhat functional, but it's a treatment for the symptom, not the problem.

On Friday, the doctor said many times a cause for vertigo is not known, but usually it goes away on its own. It may also recur at any time or not for 10 years or never. Hardly what I wanted to hear, and I'll be very happy if it will just go away now. The doctor has scheduled a cat scan to rule out other possibilities.

I am supposed to return to work on Monday morning; and even though the doctor has said I can drive while taking dramamine, it's not a prospect I'm really looking forward to.

It's hard to keep a dedicated quilter down though, so in spite of the vertigo, I did manage to finish up the last little bit of binding on the Tug of War quilt. Technically speaking I finished this quilt on New Year's Day; but out of 410 inches of binding, I only had about 18 inches left to hand sew, and I would have finished it on New Year's Eve had I not been flat on my back in bed. So I'm counting it as a finish for 2008.

Hope everyone else rang in the New Year in style. I've been catching up on blog reading today, and lots of bloggers seem to be very focused on either cleaning and reorganizing or contemplating goals for the new year. Either way, everyone seems to be looking forward to a fresh start, and that includes me too.

Along those lines, Amanda has already signed up for two challenges, one for Pay it Forward and the other for One Project a Month. The latter has more appeal for me, and the idea is to finish at least one project a month, whether it's a UFO (the original idea) or something new. I have a thousand and one UFOs, so that will be one of my goals this year.