Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some Knitting Finishes

As promised, here is a photo of Christopher's watch cap that I finished a month or so ago. I liked this variegated yarn so much that I bought more for a scarf for him, plus another skein in shades of gray and black with an accent of red for a hat for my other son. I knitted this with a K1, P1 sequence, which created this lovely stretchy knit.

The last knitting class I took was on baby sweaters, and this is one of three patterns the teacher offered. This little garter stitch cardigan has pockets on the front, and it was my favorite of the three. The arms look too long to me, but Donna's only comment was that the neck looked too small. I guess the wearer will have to leave that top button unbuttoned. Or maybe it should be for a monkey.

This is the front and back of a second sweater that is almost finished. This little hoodie will have a zipper in the back. I never saw one of these or had one when my kids were babies, but everyone else seems to remember them. The knitting is all done, but I still need to sew the arm and side seams closed, chain an edging around the opening in the back, and sew in the zipper.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Road Trip

I went to bed late last night and then couldn't get out of bed this morning to save my life. I finally got up around 9:00 and sat and knitted for a while; then my son came home with his friend Austin. I was still in my jammies, and we chatted a while. By the time the kids left it was nearly noontime, and I was still in my jammies. Discouraged that half the day was already gone, I decided a road trip was in order.

DonnaB, my knitting teacher, mentioned a knitting shop down in Bath, and I wanted to see it. Coincidentally there is also a quilt shop right down the street. So I programmed up the GPS, and off I went. The quilt shop turned out to be closed, drat!

The name of the yarn shop is Halcyon Yarns, and I was just dazzled by the size of the shop and how much yarn they had. There were floor to ceiling racks of yarns and perle cottons, plus an abundance of supplies for weavers and spinners as well. In the notions aisle, I found beautiful wooden knitting needles, and a pair of tiny circular knitting needles not much bigger than a toothpick. There were tons of books, patterns, and videos for knitting, crochet, bobbin lace, and tatting. Tatting! I haven't seen that anywhere for years. For those of you in the 50 and older group, remember those metal looms we had when we were kids, with the polyester loops in different colors that we used to weave potholders? I loved those things and hadn't seen one since I was a kid, but they had those too, along with some loose bags of the loops. What a great place!

I bought a couple cones of #3 perle cotton and some satin bamboo for a knitted beaded bag we're starting this week in class. DonnaB has a mitten class planned for us this fall, but I've been thinking about giving it a try sooner than that, so I bought patterns for mittens. I asked Donna if we could try felting--I think felted mittens would be much warmer. My younger son got a pair of mittens as a gift this winter and complained that the wind went right through them.

I also bought a skein of green variegated yarn for a new beanie for my son. I forgot to post a picture of the beanie I finished for him a couple weeks ago. I was thrilled how well it turned out, and it actually fits! Now my other son and my husband would like to have one. Tomorrow I'll put up some photos of the watch cap and a little baby sweater I just finished.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

I missed the stash report last week, so there's a little more to report this week. I added 3 yards last week for the Springtime Stars backing, then counted it back out this week when it went to the machine quilter's. I've also used 4-3/4 yards for the snowman quilt so far.

Here's the Stash Manager's report:

Fabric used this week: 7-3/4 yards
Fabric used year to date: 27-1/4 yards
Fabric added last week: 3 yards
Fabric added year to date: 25-1/4 yards
Net used year to date: 2 yards

I'm back in the black!

Weekend Retreat

My good friend Sherry hosted a retreat for us in her home this weekend. Sherry has done this for us before--we always have lots of fun, and Sherry is always a wonderful hostess. We go about 9:00 Saturday morning, sew all day, have lunch and supper at Sherry's, then go home and come back Sunday morning at 9:00 for a second day of sewing. There were eight of us at the retreat.

Our project for the weekend was this snowman quilt that appeared in the most recent issue of Fabric Trends magazine. It's called "Under the Covers", and the original had a crazy pieced section under the mittens. Sherry used a novelty print in that section, which worked equally well.

BarbD, who comes up with so many creative ideas, planned to make the quilt this weekend with us, but she also worked up this miniature version before the weekend. How cute is that?

I bought this flannel quilt kit at the Heritage Celebration quilt show in Lancaster last year, so I decided to make it instead. It's called "Under The Stars", but the girls dubbed it "Stuck Up Snowmen". The snowmen have all been fused to the background fabric, but I haven't sewn them down yet, and I'll use a machine blanket stitch to do it. The squares haven't been sewn together either, just set in place for now. I'll start sewing them together this week, then add some borders.

After finishing the Springtime Stars quilt, I wasn't really much in the mood for another winter quilt, but I'm enjoying working on this one nonetheless. And the weatherman has predicted snow tomorrow. Sigh....

Credit where credit is due: "Under the Covers" quilt design by Pearl Louise Designs
"Under the Stars" quilt design by The Rabbit Factory

A Mess With the Email

I discovered a couple days ago that a bunch of my email was dumped into a spam folder by my ISP and that over 3200 pieces of mail was retained in one of my email accounts, which, after it was forwarded, was supposed to be deleted. That may have caused some bounces with a "full mailbox" message. The worst part was there was no rhyme or reason to it. My profound apologies to anyone who left a comment on my blog or emailed me and didn't get a response back. Apparently this has been happening since at least early February.

Our service was formerly provided by Verizon and has now been taken over by Fairpoint. The transition for phone service was seamless; and since our email continued to function in what seemed to be a normal manner, it didn't occur to me there may have been a problem. I knew from the newspapers that Fairpoint has been having lots of service issues; and we have been trying to access our account information online with no success until very recently, which is when I made this discovery. Fairpoint has made rather a mess of things, and it is nearly impossible to get Customer Service on the phone. One of Fairpoint's tech reps in Texas told me they couldn't even get their own CS folks on the phone. According to the newspapers, Fairpoint now expects operations to be normalized by June. What?

I considered switching services, but I hate the thought of changing email addresses all over again. Think of how many places you have to change it! So I'm sticking with Fairpoint for now. Now that I know to check the spam folder and my other account, hopefully I won't miss anything else.

Laying Out a Quilt Back

Laying out and sizing up a quilt back and batt doesn't seem like it should be a particularly difficult thing to do, but I don't necessarily think that squaring up a piece of fabric that measures 108" x 108" is an easy thing to do either. I make a lot of queen-sized quilts, all of which go to the machine quilter's for quilting. I have heard professional machine quilters complain that the backings and batts they get from their customers are often not squared up correctly, so I try very hard to do this job as accurately as I can.

I used to do this on a large table, but I have since discovered that working on the floor gives me a much better result. I would never crawl around on the floor to pin a quilt (because it would just kill my knees and my back), but this is fast and relatively easy.

I am fortunate to have a large space on my bedroom floor that will easily accomodate a queen sized quilt. I start by folding the backing in half lengthwise, selvage to selvage. Then I place it on the floor with the fold along the edge of one of the floor boards and tape it in place with masking tape. I'll also secure the opposite corners to keep it from shifting as I'm laying out the batting.

Next, I fold the batting in half and place fold on top of fold on the backing, then do the same with the top.

I use a couple of rulers to square up the edge for the first cut, then trim all the way around the quilt, leaving a 3" - 4" border, which is usually what the machine quilter asks for.
A cautionary note here, make sure you know where the end of that cutting mat is as you're going along. You don't want to roll off the end of the mat and cut your floor!

Here is my quilt all squared up and ready to go off to the machine quilter.
What do you do with the left over pieces of backing and batting? The fabric will get trimmed down to a suitable size
and added to the strip drawer. The smallest scraps of batting are used to wipe oil off machines, collect the tiniest scraps and threads from my cutting mat, dusting whatever needs to be dusted in my sewing room, and whatever else I can think of to do with them.

I'll use the larger pieces as batting in smaller quilts. I used to whipstitch together these smaller sections of batting to make a larger, more useable piece, but I've since discovered that once I have a small quilt loaded on my frame, I can simply butt one of these smaller pieces up against another and keep quilting. I've washed the quilts afterwards, and those batting pieces seem to stay in place just fine. I would not do this, however, for a quilt that would be quilted on a domestic machine or one that would be hand quilted. Been there, done that, and it didn't work well for me at all.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

I broke down and bought some fabric I didn't need this week, and it felt pretty good! Except for the medleys I get every month, this is the first fabric I've bought this year. When I went to the quilt shop to get the backing for my Springtime Stars quilt, there was a basket filled with jelly rolls and jelly cakes sitting by the register. Jelly rolls are all over the place now, but I'd never bought one until this week. The colors in these two really appealed to me. The jelly roll is called Neptune, and the jelly cake is called Gypsy Rose. I've already started a new quilt with the Neptune fabrics and had to run back to the quilt shop for a couple yards of background fabric to go with it.

Another medley arrived in the mail last week too. They're supposed to come once a month, and they usually arrive pretty close to the same day of the month; but this is the third medley I've received since February 2. I called today to ask why deliveries had been so erratic the last few months and was shocked to discover that I've been receiving Keepsake medleys off and on (mostly on) since 1993. Good grief! I've cancelled them now, once and for all.

Here's the Stash Manager's report:

Fabric used this week: 3-5/8 yards
Fabric used year to date: 19-1/2 yards
Fabric added this week: 14-3/4 yards
Fabric added year to date: 22-1/2 yards
Net used year to date: -3 yards

3 yards in the hole--okay, I can live with that. I'll have a few finishes coming up before too long, and that will take care of it. Provided I behave myself, that is. Last year was a terrible year for stashbusting, and I'll be happy if I break even this year. It's a start.

Here's the quilt I started with the Neptune fabrics, so I counted the jelly roll and background fabric right back out of the stash again. Fig Tree & Co has a pattern for this quilt, but I figured I could wing it without the pattern since the block is in the EQ6 library. I did get a couple other things from them though.

Anyway, it's pretty easy to make without a pattern. All you do is sew a pair of strips together, then cut 60 degree wedges from the strip set. You need 6 identical wedges to make a hexagon, and you can get two different hexagons from each pair of strips. You can make a quilt 6 blocks across x 7 rows out of a jelly roll. Background and borders are extra, so I'll be ordering a little more fabric this week for the borders. I think I'll be using the fabrics in the upper left corner for borders. I like these blocks because they sort of remind me of Stack 'n Whack blocks, but they're a lot less work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Star BOM -- Done!

Woohoo, the Star BOM top, hereby renamed Springtime Stars, is finished! This quilt was a whole lot of work and well worth it! Today I bought some white fabric for the backing, and last night I ordered a king size batt. When that arrives, my good friend Ann will quilt some baptist fans on it for me.

When I was working on the ribbon border a couple of posts ago, I said I'd share the method I used to make it. The border is foundation pieced, and if you're working on this quilt, you'll get a pattern for the ribbon block. You might consider printing those foundations on freezer paper, which offers some distinct advantages. Even if you're not doing the Star BOM, the freezer paper foundation piecing method is still a handy one to have in your tool box when the occasion might arise.

As far as I know, Judy Mathieson of Mariner's Compass fame invented this method, and an article detailing her method was featured in one of the major quilt magazine some years ago. It has also been discussed in great detail by Barb Vlack and others on the Info-EQ list. If you're a list member, you can probably find that information in their archives.

The concept is simple. Foundations are printed on freezer paper, and each line is scored ahead of time to fold easier. The first piece of fabric is pressed in place, eliminating pins or glue, and succeeding pieces are pressed to the freezer paper after stitching. Instead of sewing through the paper as in regular foundation piecing, you fold the freezer paper back out of the way on the stitching line and sew right next to the line. You can then simply peel off the foundation when you're finished--no ripping off the paper--a real time saver, especially since there are 40 ribbon blocks in this quilt. There is an excellent tutorial, complete with detailed photographs, here.

Another nice thing about using freezer paper is that the foundations can be used over and over. I printed 12 foundations--6 foundations for one half of the block, and 6 mirror image foundations for the other half. I used the same set of 12 foundations for all 40 blocks.

Waste is inherent to foundation piecing, but there are some things you can try to eliminate as much waste as possible. I cut strips of the two purple fabrics I was using, lined all the foundations up on the strips, and ironed them all at once. Then I cut them apart and added the triangles, chain piecing them through the machine in groups of 12. To save background fabric, I cut rectangles first, then cut them diagonally to get my triangles. I used a paper template to figure out where to make that cut. You can cut stacks of these pretty quickly.

March certainly came in like a lion. We had a big snowstorm the first day of the month plus a few other minor snowfalls. We woke up again this morning to more snow, which changed over to sleet, then rain. I really hate cold rain! I keep going to Norma's blog looking at her Backyard Tour and imagining what it would be like to shed all this outerwear and sit outside in the warm sun eating a fresh ripe tomato. Come on, Spring!

Credit where credit is due: Star BOM quilt design by Judy Laquidara. I made a few modifications of my own to her design.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Socks

My son took most of these pictures yesterday morning at Mary's apartment and emailed them. Not only does Damien like his new socks, but he also adores the Beanie baby dachshund he found at our house. He took it home with him and has carried it around ever since.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

There's not so much to report this week, only a quarter yard out for the backing on the Easter Egg quilt. However, I got a couple of Keepsake medleys for a total of 3 yards. Still ahead of the game, but sliding backwards a little. I'm on vacation for the next two weeks and hope to get some serious sewing done!

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 1/4 yard
Fabric used year to date: 16-1/8 yards
Fabric added this week: 3 yards
Fabric added year to date: 7-1/2 yards
Net used year to date: 8-5/8 yards

I have been Thinking Spring all week long, and this morning I heard there's a big storm roaring up the East Coast that will arrive here by midnight. They're predicting 8-14. I swear it's the Endless Winter...sigh....