Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holidays at Home

We had a sew day over at Koleen's yesterday, and I started this wallhanging called "Holidays at Home". Koleen's sister has a quilt shop down in New Hampshire, and last summer she had these Block of the Month kits for sale, so we each bought one. With the Champagne quilt I had to get done for my niece's wedding, work, and everything else, I never got a chance to start on it. I'm still very much in the holiday mood though, so I'm happy working on it right now.

The colors aren't very true in the cover photo, but they are in the picture I took of the blocks I've done so far. I love the blocks on the left because they look like gift boxes.

One of the fun things about the kit is this striped fabric that's included in the packet each month. From this striped fabric, you cut out half square triangle units and strip sections for the different blocks. Less piecing, faster assembly, but it still looks like you did all the work. I'm sure this isn't a new concept, but it's new to me, and I like it.
Hancock's of Paducah still has these kits if anyone is interested.

Catching Up After Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas celebration with family and friends. We had a nice holiday except that we missed our son. My husband has missed a few Christmases over the years because of his job, but this is the first year one of my children hasn't been with me for Christmas.

Our elder son joined the armed forces on a delayed entry program back in April and shipped out to boot camp the first week of December. We finally got some letters from him today in the mail. He spent the first week wondering what the hell he'd gotten himself into, but he's doing just fine now that's he's adjusted to the routine and the mind games. He's a tough kid with a good sense of humor, so I'm sure he'll make it through with flying colors.

The kids got together and bought me an Ipod Touch before my son left for boot camp. My son has an iPhone that I sort of commandeer every time he comes up for a visit to play a game called Booley, so I guess he figured maybe I should have my own. I actually considered buying one for myself several months ago, but mostly I could care less about all that technology and thought it would be wasted on me. Now that I have one, I love it. I have a camera, email, a web browser, an app for FoxsNews, an app for Weather Channel, some kitchen apps, and a few games, among other things. And I've created endless lists for myself on this thing, eliminating tons of paper. I'm sure this will rank as one of my best ever gifts.

Two days after Christmas the blizzard rolled into Maine. The storm raged for nearly 24 hours, and we got 15 inches of snow; but we never lost power, which I thought was amazing. I took the day off work because I refused to drive 45 minutes down the interstate in it, but my husband went to work. He had no problem until he got home and got stuck in the driveway, so I threw on some snowpants, boots, and a coat and went out to help shovel out the car. Then I played around out in the snow for a while, while my husband snow blowed the driveway.

It was about 22 degrees that day with a wind chill of 8, and maybe that's why I developed a case of laryngitis... again. I had it just over a month ago and missed three days of work because of it, and I had to call out again today. Can't be on the phones all day with no voice. It was a very fine day to sew though.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Catching Up Before Christmas

My work schedule really ramped up in December, and I've worked six- or seven-day weeks for most of the month. There's been no time for anything else, and I'm exhausted. I've missed all the Christmas events and missed seeing all my friends. I've done this nine seasons in a row, and I don't think I'll be going back next year. The Christmas tree didn't even get decorated until today. Two more weeks though, and then I'm done with work.

I may have touched my sewing machine once this month, but I did find some time for sewing last month. I wanted quick and easy projects, and what's easier than pillowcases and strippies? So that's what I worked on, plus a small baby quilt. I even got the baby quilt quilted, but it's still waiting for binding. In the dinosaur strippy, four of the five panels sewn into the quilt top only have dinosaur bodies, no heads. I managed to cut them all off when I cut out the strips. Think a kid will notice that?

I made time for some knitting too. I made a little santa dishcloth and finished a pair of socks.

Then I started another pair...

.... and another. Don't you ever get anxious to start the project just to see what it will look like? Same thing happens to me with quilting too. I suppose that's why I have so many UFOs.

I'm crazy about this magic loop method of sock knitting. I don't think I'll ever go back to double pointed needles.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Any Day Spent Sewing. . .

. . . is a good day. That's what is emblazoned across the front of the shirt I finished embroidering earlier this evening. I probably say that to myself just about every day too.

This is the first "real" tee shirt I've tried to embroider since Barb showed us how to do it, and I am beyond thrilled with how it turned out. It is nothing short of a miracle that I managed to get the design centered, and not a pucker anywhere in the fabric around the design. I'm learning.

I did have one moment of sheer panic when the edge of the shirt rolled up around the hoop slid down under the needle and got stitched in. You know, kinda like when you're machine quilting and you catch the corner of the top in the quilting. You've all done that, right? Luckily it was just a few stitches, and I was able to extract the rest of the shirt easily enough. I think it put a tiny hole in it though, but I fray checked it, and hopefully that will fix it.

Next up -- more practice with freestanding lace.

Design from Embroidery Library

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is a sunny day here in Maine but very cold, below freezing. One of my sons is coming over later in the day, and my other son will be going to his girlfriend's mother's for dinner. Her mother had back surgery very recently and surely needs the company and help with the meal.

For dinner today we'll have roast turkey with stuffing, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallow crusted on top, a yellow squash casserole, boiled onions, cranberry sauce and a baked cranberry dish, and pumpkin roll for dessert.

I plan to spend some time in my sewing room today too, working on some embroidery projects.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November Finish

It took nearly forever to get the Jewel Box quilt done, but I finished binding it and made a label for it about a week and a half ago. AnnH quilted it with the Baptist Fans I am so fond of. This ranks right up there as one of my all time favorite quilts.

I learned how to manipulate text in my embroidery software so each letter in the title would stitch out in a different color. A very useful trick.

Quilt design by Jinny Beyer

Tulip Bells

My work schedule ramped up in November, so it's been a busy month. I've actually been home from work for several days now with a bad cold and laryngitis, so in between naps I worked on this Tulip Bells block. At the last Tacoma Lakes group meeting, Barb showed us how to make this 3-dimensional block, and it was easier than I anticipated.

The idea is simple. Folded triangles are inserted at strategic places throughout the block, then the edges of the triangles are folded over and stitched down. In this photo, I've stitched one edge down and pinned the remaining edges.

Here, all the edges have been stitched down, creating the tulip bell. Pinning or pressing the edges makes the job easier, and using a stiletto helps hold the edge in place while sewing.

We used the Tulip Bells Table Runner pattern from Southwind Designs. Annette offers a number of other interesting quilt patterns using this technique. This block was purely a sample, and I haven't got enough background fabric to make two more blocks, so this one will wind up in the orphan block pile and become a pillow or something. But I would like to make a 3-dimensional quilt like this at some point.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Adventures in Machine Embroidery

My good friend Barb started a little machine embroidery group last month. We meet once monthly, so Tuesday we got together and learned how to make free standing lace (FSL). Most of us seemed to be in the mood to make Christmas ornaments, but there are designs for FSL bookmarks, coasters, bowls and baskets, insets for v-neck tee shirts, all kinds of things. I've wanted to learn how to do this for a long time, so I was very excited about it.

The basic idea is to stitch out a design on water soluble stabilizer, then rinse away the stabilizer leaving just the stitching. Each stitch has to be locked so the finished product doesn't fall apart; so if you're new to machine embroidery, look for designs that say "free standing" lace. This is Peggy's design still in the hoop being stitched out.

The large santa face was the first one I stitched out, and I had a bit of trouble with looping. After changing the needle I had no trouble stitching out the mini ornaments. Aren't they cute?

Last month we learned how to embroider a tee shirt. Because I have lots of trouble with this finicky machine of mine, I pulled a shirt out of the rag bag to practice on. Under Barb's tutelage, I managed to stitch out a nice design with nary a pucker. I'm encouraged to try a stitch out on a "real" tee shirt.
Next month we're doing machine embroidered applique. Can't wait!

Sock Update

After making what I think was a fair effort with the two-socks-on-two-circulars method, I decided to take Quilternity's advice (thanks Terri!) and put each sock on its own circular and switch back and forth between the socks. I can knit faster on one circular, and I really want to get on with the business of knitting socks. I'll have to count rows, but heck, it really only takes a few seconds.

I like this yarn too. It's Happy Feet from Plymouth Yarn. The color changes about every inch or so, so you get this tweedy effect instead of stripes. Even though it's mostly wool, it's a little stretchy, which I like too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Star Crazy BOM for October

One of my quilt groups started a two-day retreat today, and I used the time to finish my Star Crazy blocks for October. Only one more Irish Chain block to go, and next month we'll make all the half Irish Chain blocks too.

Collectively we got quite a bit of work done today. The snowmen tablerunners are complete as is, except the blue one which is missing a few snowmen. The sunflower wallhanging will have a few more borders, and the crazy pieced hearts will become part of a tree skirt. ChrisP is working on a stack and whack, and BarbD made a mini Sassy Snappy Purse, perfect for a little girl.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Going in Circles

I thought better of my plan to teach myself to knit two socks on one circular needle and decided maybe I'd better try one sock on a circular needle first. Having already had the benefit of knowing how to use a magic loop, it was a piece of cake to apply it to a sock. The only thing I really had to figure out was how to redistibute the stitches for the gusset. Easy enough, and I finished this little toddler sock with only the toe left to finish.

Then I was ready to try two socks on one circular. I had no trouble with the concept; but even with a 40" circular, I struggled with the stitches stretching between the two halves of the socks. I kept wishing I had, like, a 60" circular. After a couple of rounds I decided I didn't like this method, so I ripped it all out. Subsequently I found out at the knit shop that there actually is a 47" circular available, which the store rep preferred also for this method.

This morning I decided I'd try two socks on two circular needles. I spent most of the morning being confused as hell. I eventually figured out how to get the stitches for the two socks on the needles and divided correctly, but after that it was all downhill. I considered the possibility that perhaps I should be using the needles specified in the book, which were 16" and 24" long, instead of the two 40" needles I was using. When all else fails, it's probably a good idea to follow the directions.

So I hopped in the car, drove down to Auburn, picked up the correct needles, a couple more skeins of yarn, a book on sweaters, and drove back home.

It didn't get better with the new needles. After ripping everything out twice more, I finally cracked the code late in the afternoon. I finally realized I was missing one particularly illuminating piece of information in the directions, and now I am well on my way. At least until I get to the heel.

I don't know if I'll like this last method any better, but the gal at the knit shop convinced me I should give both methods a fair chance before I abandon them. At the very least, I probably wouldn't go back to double pointed needles again--I'd switch to one sock on one circular.

I think tonight, I need to quilt something.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Productive Weekend

I finally got a chance to sit down and do some serious sewing this weekend, and I got quite a bit done. This weekend I ....

.... finished up the Conestoga Star blocks through the month of October and then sewed all the blocks I've made so far into rows. These blocks are part of my 6-Quilt Stashbuster Challenge.

.... added three more sets of blocks to a set I already had made for this little baby quilt. I bought the kit last spring on a shop hop just to have in reserve in case I needed it, and now I know someone who is having a baby. This is a very simple pattern called Crazy Eights, which requires only eight fat quarters. There are four different block patterns in the quilt, and you make four sets of eight blocks using each block pattern twice, then scramble them up to make the top.

.... machine stitched the binding on the Jewel Box quilt. I got the quilt back a couple weeks ago from my friend Ann who quilted baptist fans on it. I still have to handstitch the binding to the back of the quilt.

.... made another block for my Pineapple Blossom quilt, which is No 7 in my Power of Ten rotation. I wish it didn't take so long to get through that rotation; but the 6Q blocks take lots of time, and the Champagne quilt ate up a lot of time too. And now there's a baby quilt to finish.

.... and made the October block for the Bali Sea Star quilt, which is also part of my 6Q Challenge. I love batiks, and I'm going to love both the Conestoga Star and the Bali Star quilts when they're finished.

Not a bad weekend, huh?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Star Crazy BOM for September

I am not behind making the Star Crazy blocks, I'm only behind posting them. These are the ones for the month of September. Haven't started October's just yet but soon. Even though I've done lots of knitting lately, I'm still quilting too, just not much to show for it. Today I'm sewing all day and hope to get caught up with the Bali Star 6Q Challenge blocks.

November Dishcloth

Did I mention I'm on a knitted dishcloth kick? I may have to come up with one for every month of the year. In fact, I'm already halfway there. I have patterns for September, October (done), November (done), December, February, and March.

This is the one for November--a horn of plenty. I'm not sure how well you can see it, but "THANKS" is knitted into the top of the cloth.

I like a 10" dishcloth, so I added extra width and height to the borders to make it bigger.

Pattern: Thanks Cloth from Knitting Memories
Yarn: Lily Sugar 'n Cream, color Country Yellow

Monday, October 11, 2010

October Dishcloth

I did get some sewing done Saturday on my day off, but I can't stay away from those knitting needles. JudyS has been knitting dishcloths lately, and she reminded me of a pattern for a pumpkin dishcloth that I got last year and never made. By the time I tracked down the orange cotton yarn for it, Halloween had come and gone. My son wants one too, so I have one more to make.

Pattern: Joan Barnett, Coats and Clark
Yarn: Lily Sugar 'n Cream, color Hot Orange

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Socks

I may not have gotten a lot of sewing done in September, but I was definitely in the mood for knitting. I finished knitting a little pink baby sweater last month but still have to sew up the sleeves and sew some buttons on. Then I really wanted to work on a pair of socks, so I dragged out these that I started eons ago. When I put them away last time, I only had about four inches knit on the first sock, so I had quite a bit left to do. I finished up the second sock this morning. As a novice sock knitter, I was thrilled they turned out the same size. Those sock blockers from Fiber Trends were a big help.

I'm still in the mood for socks, and with three pair under my belt now, I'm ready to try two socks on one circular needle. I found a book about it at a quilt shop in Auburn, and the same lady also authored a book on toe up socks, which I'm going to try too. Seems like you could fit them better if you knit them from the toe up.

Yarn: Sockotta from Plymouth Yarn Co.
Pattern: Classic Socks by Yankee Knitter Designs

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Annual Leaf Peeping Tour

The leaf peeping websites indicated that the mountains attained 30% of their peak color this weekend, but we usually miss peak because we never go early enough in the season. The photo in the header was from this weekend. Does that look like 30% peak color to you? I'm glad we went this weekend. For once we might have hit it just right.

We seem to follow the same circuit every year and take the same set of photos, but I still don't get tired of seeing it. We prepared a small picnic lunch and some snacks and headed up to
Rangeley, had lunch at the state park, and headed home again. This is Coos Canyon in Byron.

Quite accidentally we stumbled across Pins and Needles quilt shop in Farmington. I knew of it from the shop hops we do every year in April, but I'd never been there. What a find this place was! Not only do they have great collections of batiks and 30s repros, but they also have a fabulous collection of yarns, including sock yarns. They do mail order too. The shop is not as far to go as I thought, and those ladies were just plain nice; so I'll be going back there again.

In Rangeley my husband spotted Threads Galore, another quilt shop I'd never been to. They are a smaller shop, and they also offer quilters retreats for groups of up to nine people in the house next door to the shop. That's pretty convenient! We didn't check out the facilities, but you can see some photos on their website.

I'd sure like to go touring at least once more before fall is over, but I work Friday and Sunday so I'm still debating.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Champagne and Roses

September has really been a lost month for me. Most of the things I wanted to accomplish just didn't get done. Maybe I needed a little change from my routine. On Monday I go back to work for several months, so it's unlikely I'll catch up now; but in the grand scheme of things, I guess it doesn't really matter so much.

I haven't had the time to be on the computer either, so I haven't posted for a little while, nor have I been able to keep up with my reading. There are only so many hours in the day. I swear I don't know how other people get it all done.

I finished the Champagne quilt this morning, quilted, bound, labeled, boxed, and gift wrapped, ready for the trip southward. The quilt finished at 99" square and used about 20 yards of fabric. What a great scrap buster this was. All of the fabric for the top and the binding came from the scrap bag, except for three fat quarters, and I didn't really need to add those.

When I finished the quilt, I seriously thought about keeping it because I liked it so much. Ever do that, make a quilt for someone and then change your mind? So I've started cutting for another one to keep, but it won't be done anytime soon.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mini Sampler

I started this little sampler back in May, and I was sort of using it as a leaders and enders project. I finished the top a couple days ago and put the last stitch in the binding this morning over morning coffee. If the border fabric looks familiar, it's because I had some left over from the Morningstar quilt.

The quilt finishes to 16" x 20", and it is from Lori Smith's pattern "Fat Quarter Quilting: Sampler Quilts". I switched out half the blocks because I wanted blocks with mostly half square triangles units. Then some simple straight line quilting for a quick and easy finish.

Lori Smith has a whole line of fat quarter quilting patterns that all finish to 16" x 20". Quite a few of the individual blocks finish to 4", which is a very doable size for me. The entire line appeals to me tremendously, and I'll be making more of them.

Progress on the Champagne Quilt

I finished up the rest of the Champagne blocks yesterday, right on schedule. I made 49 blocks so I'll be setting them in a 7 x 7 format. In the afternoon I sewed the first three sets of blocks into rows but haven't sewn the rows together yet. I want to get all the blocks sewn together by mid week so I can start on the borders. This quilt must be ready for quilting no later than September 15!

It was beastly hot here in Maine yesterday, 88 in the shade; and we are in for more hot weather the next three or four days. The leaves have already started changing color, so I'm hoping this is summer's last gasp.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

PS I Love You

It's been about a month and a half since I worked on anything in my Power of Ten rotation, but I got the urge to work on one of those quilts a few days ago, and this was the next one in the rotation. This was supposed to be a challenge for the same four of us that made the September Sun quilts. Two of the girls have got theirs quilted and bound already, and two of us are still struggling with fabrics.

In fact I've struggled for months trying to choose fabrics for it, as I always do when choosing fabrics for a planned quilt. I much prefer scrappy quilts or kits.

Some of these fabrics I ordered sometime last year for a pattern I was testing; but when they arrived I was disappointed they weren't at all what I'd pictured. The colors seemed so dull, and the scale of the prints was not at all what I expected. So into the closet they went. I actually considered them several times for this quilt, dismissed them, and came back to them in the end. Now that I've got one block together, maybe they're not so bad after all.

I need 13 star blocks and 12 snoball blocks for my quilt. No idea what I'm doing for fabric for the snoball blocks yet, but I think I've got the sashing and border fabrics picked out. I sewed one block last night to see how it might look, decided it would work just fine, and spent this afternoon cutting up fabric for the remaining 12 star blocks.

I've spent all the time I want to on this quilt for now, so it's going back into the closet, and the next project in my rotation is ready and waiting.