Monday, 7 May 2018

#quiltsforbroncos

Most, if not all of you, have likely heard of the tragic bus-semi accident in Saskatchewan that resulted in the deaths of 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, as well as injury to 13 others. Many people around the world were touched by this tragedy, and 142,004 people donated over $15 million to the GoFundMe campaign set up to support the victims.  Meanwhile, Haus of Stitches, the crafting/quilting/sewing/whatever shop in Humboldt gave us quilters an opportunity to help the way quilters help best: make quilts. The call was originally for 200 quilts as the organizers wanted to be able to give them to victims, families, first responders and health care professionals involved. Last I heard, the expected number was 700, and they are still coming in. The Quilts for Broncos Facebook page stated this in their thank you post: "If you have not yet started a quilt, we kindly ask that you turn your generous and charitable efforts to other groups in need such as the Toronto Attack or other groups in your community in need of support." (Still waiting for a quilt shop or guild in Toronto to step forward and coordinate the efforts for the Toronto Attack victims). 
Today, I dropped my contribution off at Johnson's Sewing Centre in Edmonton as they are collecting and shipping them to Humboldt. 
I call it "Hope."
Originally, I tried to take this picture outside, on the same tree limb where I posed the Horsefeathers afghan in the previous post. Unfortunately, the wind was not cooperating and the quilt was blowing pretty much parallel to the ground. I later thought that perhaps I could have taken the picture if I laid on the ground beneath the quilt... Creative photo ops aside, I decided to back the truck out of the garage and take this picture inside. But first I had to wash my hands. Evidently, the warmer temperatures had gotten the pine sap flowing, and by the time I had finished fighting with the wind and the quilt, my hands were all sticky. Inside I discovered that pine sap does not wash out with simple soap. I had to resort to vegetable oil, which I then washed off with soap. After the picture taking however, I found a sticky spot on the edge of the quilt. Knowing I couldn't put vegetable oil on the quilt like I did on my hands, I sprayed a little Windex on it and then rinsed it out. That seemed to do the trick. 
I could have sent my quilt top in once I'd finished it. The organizers of the quilt drive were willing to take fabric, blocks, and quilt tops as well as finished quilts. But since the team is called "Broncos" and I have two different (and recently purchased) horse-themed pantographs, I was determined to finish the quilt using one of them. I opted for Mustang Stampede from Meadowlyon. I used a high-loft batting that was given to me by a friend, and I thought it would give the quilting more definition. But I found that you can barely tell (unless you look really closely) that it is horses. 
Look carefully, and you will see the horse.
Here's a close-up. You can see the horse's head just to the left of the light-coloured square.
If you look at the picture in the pantograph link, you can more readily discern the horses in the stitching because you'll know what you're looking for. I guess maybe I chose thread that blended in too well. 
And here the quilting is in progress at Central Sewing Machines
Meanwhile, I picked up this fabric for the Stellar Elegance Mystery Quilt:
I'm planning on using the black as the background fabric. 
And I'm making some serious progress on my Lilac Grove afghan. 
While I was in Johnson's, I just couldn't pass up this quilt kit. 
Isn't that tool fabric adorable? I intend to call it Grandpa's tools. It will probably go to the son of my father's oldest grandchild. Even though he's never met his great grandfather, I want him to have a memento of him. And tools always remind me of my dad. And I already have the perfect pantograph!

Monday, 23 April 2018

Horsefeathers

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of horsefeathers is nonsense, balderdash. And
I have to admit that this afghan is a bit of nonsense. First of all, this wasn't the best choice of yarn for this particular pattern. As a roving yarn, there was too much variation in the thickness of the yarn to work very well with the "loopy" part of the pattern. Secondly, yarn choice aside, the pattern itself is rather silly. All of those big loops of yarn can too readily get caught on someone's toe, a bedpost or whatever. By the time I'd come to that conclusion, however, I was too far into the project to want to start over with a different pattern. So I finished it off. 
Above, the afghan is on the blocking mat, and you can more clearly see the big loops. It's a lovely colour, and I think that's what drew me to this yarn. The pattern is actually called Peacock Feathers, and you can find it in this book,and, as far as I recall, this is the first afghan I've finished from "Weekend Afghans." The pattern is actually quite attractive, just not very practical for use. And with two cats in the house, decorative afghans can't just sit around on the back of a chair or sofa. As a matter of fact, while I had the afghan on the blocking mat, I ended up with two snags in it, thanks to the cats. Fortunately, I was able to pull them out, and after the second snag, I covered the afghan with a sheet to prevent further mishaps.  
I started it on a circular needle, but found that all of those YOs tightened up on the cable part of the needle and doubled over on themselves, making it very challenging to get them back onto the needle end to knit them off again. After the first try or two, I started switching to a regular needle for the YO rows. However, I didn't have the right size of regular needle (9 mm) and had to substitute an 8 mm. Eventually, I bought a pair of 9 mm needles and just used them to finish the afghan rather than the circular needle. I didn't add the fringe that the pattern called for. I'm not a big fan of fringe as it can get tangled and matted and I don't think this yarn would make good fringe anyway.
According to my Ravelry account, I started this project on January 16, 2016, though my Ravelry dates are not always 100% accurate. I tend to start a project without documenting it in Ravelry, and it's often not until later that I get around to adding the project. So some dates are just estimates. Nevertheless, it's taken over 2 years to complete this afghan. I'm really glad it's finished: another WIP to check off the list!
Once finished, I had to figure out how to get a decent picture of it. The branch on this pine tree is almost ideal for displaying quilts and afghans.
Note that I said "almost." Although it's a good height and more or less parallel to the ground, it's too easy to snag yarn on the rough bark and twig remnants along the branch. I had to exercise great care in placing and removing this afghan. 
Now I just have to figure out what to do with it. I can't imagine that anyone would want this silly thing, pretty though it is. I'll probably just hang it over a quilt rack or ladder when I get around to buying one. The colour does go well with my bathroom, so maybe I'll hang it over a towel bar... 😁

Friday, 16 March 2018

Sewing with a Twist

No, I have not developed a new sewing technique. "Sewing with a Twist" is just the name I have given to this quilt because all of the fabrics used are sewing-themed and I used the Twister ruler to make it. 
It measures 40" x 48" and I plan to use it as a wallhanging in my sewing studio. However, it's not one of my favourite quilts. While I like a lot of the individual fabrics, over all, it's a rather ho-hum quilt. It lacks panache. It doesn't have that "wow" factor that I strive for in my quilts. It's certainly not as pretty as the Evening Snowfall quilt that currently hangs on the wall in my sewing studio.
Perhaps if I'd chosen a different fabric than the thimble fabric with the beige background as the first border, I might have been able to give it a little more zing. Unfortunately, I chose what was availabe at a price I was willing to pay. Later on, the fabric I used in the backing and binding was on sale 
and fabric from that line would have spiced it up considerably. Regardless, it's done. 
I actually started this quilt a few years ago. I don't exactly remember when. I bought the half layer cake of sewing-themed fabrics from Keepsake Quilting. It's the second one I purchased from them that I wasn't really pleased with the final quilt. The previous one was the Sweet Dreams quilt. It's certainly not Keepsake Quilting's fault. It's mine for how I chose to use them. I was aiming for smaller quilts, and so I didn't add much in the way of extra fabrics in either. If I had, I could have done something totally different and likely ended up with quilts with a lot more pizzazz. Note to self for future reference...
When I finished the quilt top, I decided to add a second border. Otherwise, it would have had all bias edges and that's not something I like to deal with if I can avoid. That's where the button fabric came in. I'm not sure where I picked this one up and I think it was only a fat quarter that I managed to squeeze enough fabric from for a narrow border. 
I've been having a Staycation the past couple of weeks, so I had time to get into the longarm studio to finally get this one quilted. I used a pantograph called Sewing Time, which features needles and spools of thread. 
It was actually a much less intense pantograph than the last few I've used. It took me just under 2 hours to do the quilting, but, of course, that was for a fairly small quilt. I knew I wanted to use black thread for the bobbin, but wasn't sure what to use for the top. I made a bold choice and quilted it in black. I've never done that before, but I think it worked.
After finishing up at the Longarm Studio and having lunch, I headed to Johnson's Sewing Centre to determine what to about my sewing machine situation. I still have the Janome Memory Craft 6000, which I inherited from my mother. 
It's a good, solid machine that will probably last me the rest of my life. I'll use it as my back-up sewing machine and maybe I'll set it up for my garment sewing machine. While I do little of that, it's nice to not have to fiddle with changing threads, needles, pressure feet, etc. when switching from piecing quilts to garment sewing. Besides, I hate being without a sewing machine when I take mine in for servicing. In my current situation, it can be a month before I get a chance to pick it up again. If I have two, I never have to do without. I took the Memory Craft 8000
in to Johnson's as the touchscreen was not responding consistently, if at all. This machine was given to me by a friend in late 1998 or early 1999. She had both this Janome and a Pfaff and decided she didn't need both. I tried to tell her that I already had the 6000, but she basically just said, "When are you coming to pick it up?" So I did. This machine came out in 1990 and was the first home computerized embroidery machine. Unfortunately, being that old, the part it requires is no longer available. The machine itself still works fine, but without a working touchscreen, I couldn't even switch to the ¼" stitch I need for piecing. What to do? Sadly, I surrendered it to the repairman to use for parts. I feel rather melancholy about it. It moved from Ontario to Alberta with me and has seen a lot of sewing and quilting in the nearly 20 years I've owned it. It saw me through my divorce, restarting my career and pursuing my degree. It saw my daughter go from a little girl to an adult and a mother. And the friend who gave it to me has passed away. Is it foolish to grieve over a sewing machine? Actually, I think I'm grieving over what it represents - a big period of my life, all the lives it's touched through my quilting and the life passages I've gone through during the time I owned it. And I miss my friend that gave it to me. She was such a sweet, thoughtful person and I am thankful for the privilege of having her in my life.
Having said all of that, somehow I'm having a hard time warming up to my brand new machine.
It's a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8200 QCP Special Edition. It's a beautiful machine, but perhaps I should have allowed myself a grieving period before purchasing a new one. 😉 I think I'm just going through too many transitions in my life and having to learn a new sewing machine was probably one of the last things I needed right now. However, it's bought and I actually did the binding on the above quilt with this machine. It also came with a table, but I need to tidy up the sewing room a lot before I can set that up.
Down to 6 quilt tops that need to be quilted, but still lots of WIPs and UFOs as well.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Chelsea Rose Bargello

This is a quilt of firsts: first bargello quilt completed, first jelly roll quilt completed (though I have 2 other jelly roll quilts in progress, one of which is a bargello, that I started before this one, but this was the first one finished), first scrappy border... And first blog post in over 2 months! It's not that I haven't had anything to say. It's just that I prefer to finish a project before I blog about it. And, aside from small projects like dishcloths and potholders, there's not been a whole lot of finishing going on around here. I counted and I actually had 8 quilt tops finished and ready for quilting. With this finish it's now down to 7, but as soon as I put the border on the Licorice Allsorts quilt, it will be back up to 8 again. It's not that I've lost my zest for longarm quilting. It's just that it's inconvenient and expensive. If I was content to finish all of my quilts with Bumpity or a similar, simple pantograph, I could have them quilted lickety split and not have to pay so much for longarm rental. The Chelsea Rose Bargello would have probably been done in under 2 hours. It's only a 50" x 60" quilt. But it took me 4 hours of quilting time, not including the time it took me to load and set up. That's because I wanted a "suitable" pantograph. When I chose the Abstract Rose
pantograph, I knew it would be challenging. Anyone who does machine quilting knows that for each of those points and tips, you have to bring the machine to a full stop - even if just for a fraction of a second - in order to make them sharp. So, the more points and corners a design has, the more labour intensive it will be. And this one has lots! While I was wholly sick of quilting this pantograph by the time I was done, the results are really beautiful.
I have to thank Denise Schillinger for such a stunning design.
I think if I was ever going to do a whole cloth quilt, this would be a design to consider. It almost seems a shame to use it on a pieced quilt where the quilting just disappears into the background. However, I don't feel like I'm in a hurry to use it on another quilt. My feet were really aching by the time I was finished. If only I had my own longarm quilting machine, I could work on my quilts an hour or two at a time. Or even half an hour. And I wouldn't have to worry about how much it was going to cost me when I use a more labour-intensive pantograph. That's a contributing factor in why I have so many quilt tops waiting to be quilted. For most of them I have chosen pantographs that are more "involved." 
I want to use Farm Tractor for the Deere Country quilt. Look at all that detail, and all of those points!
I chose Pine Bough for the Wintry Woods quilt: yikes - it's mostly points!
So I have been rather reluctant to book the time to finish these quilts. Another consideration is what happens if I can't finish it in a day? Or even in the time I have booked. At one studio where I rent, you have to book in 2-hour increments. What if I don't finish the quilt in the 4 or 6 hours I have booked, and someone else has booked the 2-hour increment after me? And what if I book 6 hours, and the quilt only takes me 4-1/2? I doubt that they will refund me for the remaining hour and a half? And what can I quilt in that remaining time? A table runner? I had actually booked 6 hours to complete the Bluenose II Pixel quilt, and it ended up taking me 7. Fortunately I started early enough in the day that I had time to finish and there was no one booked after me, so I could take the extra hour. That's why I prefer the other place: you only pay for the actual quilting time, and it's cheaper, though they did increase their hourly rate when they switched to a newer machine with a bigger throat space. 
And $25/hour is still $25/hour. And it's a shame that I end up paying as much to rent a longarm as I would to pay someone else to finish my quilts. And, even though thread and prewound bobbins are included in the rental price, I often end up buying my own because I'm not always happy with the selection. I'm fussy like that. 😉
In the case of this quilt, I bought both upper and lower threads, the two Glide threads on the right. The two Aurifil on the left were used to attach the binding. 
And on the subject of thread, I had a discussion regarding appropriate thread for longarm quilting with the repairman at the studio. Since he repairs these machines, I think it's safe to assume that he knows what he's talking about. Cotton, specifically King Tut cotton from Superior threads, is what he recommends. Not polyester. Hmm, my understanding of the rationale for using polyester is that the high speeds of a longarm quilting machine would result in the thread breaking more frequently when using cotton thread, but Rod (the repairman) didn't seem to think that should be an issue. If I ever get my own machine, I will have to experiment and find out. The interesting thing is that both studios where I rent offer Glide polyester as the thread included with the rentals, but Rod doesn't recommend that. He said that Glide is actually an embroidery thread, which I've been told before. Meanwhile, I purchased a Glide colour card, so that I can chose thread colours at home, for when I order online or when I don't want to drag fabric samples along with me when I shop in person. 
Now maybe I need to buy a King Tut colour card. But I already have Aurifil colour cards. And the repairman didn't seem at all familiar with Aurifil, confusing it with Wonderfil. So likely an Aurifl 40-weight cotton would be as good as a King Tut? As I said, if and when I get my own machine, I will do some experimenting. 
Speaking of machines, the bad news is the touchscreen on my Janome Memory Craft 8000 can not be replaced. The part is no longer available. It has been giving me trouble for a few months now - working inconsistently. Sometimes it would work fine and sometimes not at all. Following instructions I found online, I was able to recalibrate it and it worked fine for awhile. Then it started acting up again. Sometimes I could "trick" it into working again by switching it on and off and sometimes by just switching it off and leaving it for a while. But towards the end, the touchscreen wasn't even responding to the recalibration technique. And I ended up leaving the machine on constantly if I was working on a project. Turning the machine off, the machine would default to the basic straight stitch when I turned it back on, and I needed the touchscreen to change the stitch to move the needle for the ¼" stitch. I finally took it in for repairs and that's when I found out that the part is no longer available. I haven't had a chance to pick it up, or do anything about it. I wasn't planning on replacing it yet. My "machine" priority has been the longarm. I still have the Memory Craft 6000, which doesn't have a touch screen. It's fine for piecing, but I tried using it to embroider the quilt information on a couple of quilt backs, which is what I do instead of a label. Unfortunately, unlike the 8000, it doesn't have a viewing screen to see what I've entered so that I can tell if I've messed anything up. It also isn't consistent in spacing the letters.
Rather messy, isn't it? But I wasn't about to rip it all out and start over. The 6000 hasn't been serviced in a while because I haven't been using it, so hopefully a good servicing will make the lettering more consistent. But if I take it in for servicing, that will leave me machineless, except for a really cheap Omega that I don't have a ¼" foot for, and the little Janome I bought for my grandson. And that's really only suitable for children's sewing: can't change the pressure foot and only 1 speed. So, maybe it's time for a new sewing machine. The longarm will have to wait anyway, as I've got some other developments in my life, which I will likely discuss in a future post. 
Meanwhile, back to the Chelsea Rose Bargello quilt - 
I have long wanted to do a bargello quilt, though I didn't originally order the Boundless Chelsea Rose jelly roll for that purpose. I intended to use the strips as setting frames for focus fabrics, but decided that a lot of this fabric is too busy and would distract from the focus fabrics. I was planning on doing the bargello with a different jelly roll, but found that jelly roll lacked sufficient contrast, and I ended up using it to make the Licorice Allsorts quilt (look for that one in a future post). And so finally decided to use the Chelsea Rose fabric to make the bargello. Here's the MSQC video: 
I also bought the pattern because I really needed it for the cutting directions and layout. However, I should warn you if you plan on making this quilt that the strips for the contrasting fabric (the teal in my quilt) need to be cut 8½", not 9". Not sure how this escaped anyone's attention, but it says 9" in both the video and the print instructions. 
So now I can cross "Bargello" off my quilting bucket list (though, as I mentioned, I do have one more bargello WIP), and I can't say that I will be in a hurry to try it again. It's rather tedious. 
Mystery has given this one his seal of approval. And it will soon be off in the mail to my newest great niece. 
I'm hoping to get Where the Charming Roses Bloom quilted soon 
but feel hesitant because I intend to use the Abstract Rose pantograph again. It's 70" square and I calculate that it will take about 7 hours to quilt. 
Now for some dishcloth finishes:
Orange ones for my daughter
a couple in pink and a Celtic Knot one which I think will be rather useless because of all the open spaces in it
finished all of these from one Big Ball of Bernat Handicrafter Cotton
Christmas Pretty Posies
and a container to put them in
several Pretty Posies
I also finally finished a CAL (crochet along) from 2015, I Want That Bag. I should say that I finished the crocheting part. I still have a zillion ends to work in, and need to line the bag. Will post once all of that is finished.


Friday, 5 January 2018

First Finish of the Year

No, these are not extremely early for Christmas 2018, though I have every intention of starting early this year, and, indeed have already begun a dishcloth for next Christmas. Since I was able to purchase this haul of yarn for $0.99/skein (with Tinker's approval),
I'm already ahead of the game. But the potholders above and the dishcloth below, while they are my first finishes of 2018,

they are actually for this past Christmas (and most of them were started before year's end). However, as I live in an area with a high percentage of the population being of Ukrainian descent, and Ukrainian Christmas isn't until January 7, I'm really not late! 

As you can see, Mystery approves. And no, I do not have to encourage him to pose for these pictures. He just likes being in the centre of wherever my attention is focused.
I got to use some of my very yummy Aurifil thread in holiday colours. The red and green came from the box in the background.  It's the Home for the Holidays collection from Craftsy. I think I bought it in the Black Friday sale, but I'm not sure. I've placed several orders with Craftsy lately (Black Friday,  Boxing Day, end of year), that I'm not sure I can remember what came in which order. Not that I have all of my orders yet.  Still some exciting parcels on their way!
I decided to give my neighbours Christmas gifts this year. That's what all the dishcloths and potholders are for. I delivered most of them this evening. The first neighbours, however, did not answer their door, even though I could see lights on in the house.  I was going to open the screen door and hang the gift bag on the doorknob,  but the screen door was locked. So that wasn't even an option.  I know some people don't really use their front doors much. I don't, but I have a side door with easy access from the street. These neighbours only have a back door in a mostly enclosed backyard. I really don't think it's polite to wander around in people's fenced-in yards. Evidently, they don't want unexpected company.  Or maybe no company at all. So, unless I happen to catch them coming or going, I might just have to choose another neighbour to be the recipient of their gift. The rest of the neighbours answered their doors, up until the last one. These people have a big, nasty dog and a "Beware of Dog" sign on their front window. (Obviously, they don't want company either). I really didn't want them to answer! The dog started barking before I even knocked. So I knocked,  hung the gift bag on their doorknob  (they don't have a screen door), and left before they could open the door and let "Brutus" out to eat me. Actually, I have no idea what that dog's name is, but Brutus seems like a good name for a dog with such an unlovely  disposition. Or maybe "Killer." I have yet to figure out why people keep such animals. Makes me wonder what goes on behind closed doors... At least they walk him regularly, which I'll give them credit for, as I've seen them go by in the early morning or evening on several occasions. But he doesn't have a muzzle on, which would make me rather nervous should I meet them on the sidewalk. 
Anyway,  I am writing this on my tablet with a stylus and the onscreen keyboard. What a pain! But my computer is "Working on updates 27% Don't turn off your PC. This will take a while." A while??? I started it before I even turned on my tablet. Meanwhile,  I went upstairs, retrieved my tablet, booted it up, and composed this whole post without the benefit of a full keyboard, and the updates are still only at 27%!!! And unfortunately, I can't add pictures to my blog post when working on my tablet. So, I will have to save this to draft and come back later to add the pictures if and when my computer ever stops updating.
<SIGH> It wasn't the tablet. I wasn't able to add pictures to this post from the computer either. I had to download them to the computer, and then upload them to the blog before I could add them here. I don't know what's with that. I haven't had this problem adding pictures taken with my Android phone directly here before... Oh well.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

2017 Crafting Year in Review

This year (2017) I started working on my Ph.D in earnest. Or rather my PHD as in Projects Half Done because I'm quite sure I ended the year with more WIPs (Works In Progress) and UFOs (UnFinished Objects) than I had at the beginning of the year. So, for 2018, I'm determined to not buy any more yarn or fabric, other than what I might need to finish a project, and not start any more projects until I've gotten more of my projects finished. However, events like the birth of a baby can interfere with that goal...
So, I'm going to take this opportunity to review what I have actually finished in 2017, which to me doesn't seem like much. 
The first project I finished was the train cardigan for my grandson.

The next project to get finished (hurray) was the Bluenose II Pixel Quilt
If I had to pick one project as my quilting masterpiece, this would be it. And the amount of labour involved reflects that. 
It was definitely a labour of love. 
Stars All Around was completed in April.
On Guard for Thee is a table runner that I started and completed in a relatively short period of time. 
It was for a Canada 150 mystery quilting challenge.
I didn't win, but I still have a great table runner.
Floating Stars, my second red, white and blue star quilt was up next. 
The Lakeshore Adventures quilt was also completed relatively quickly.
The Shamrock Pillow was my next finish.

If I had to name a crocheting masterpiece that I have completed, Janet's Flower Garden would be it.
 It, too, was a pretty intense labour of love.
Though not finished promptly, at least Celtic Ballad was begun and ended in the same year.
 For this project, I tried my hand at fabric origami for the first time.
Then there was a fabric decoupage ornament,
a Christmas tree skirt,
with matching garlands,
pajamas for my grandson (first garment sewing I've done in years),
dishcloths,
and hot potholders.

Plus all of the craft projects I worked on with my grandson. 
I guess I didn't do too badly. I also have a few quilt tops completed and waiting to be quilted. I'm finding it rather tedious to get somewhere to do the quilting. My goal is still to own my own longarm quilting machine and to that end, some of my time and money in 2018 will need to be spent on getting more basement renovations done. 
I'm not going to review all of my WIPs, UFOs and PHDs. I'm not even sure I could find them all at the moment, but suffice it to say that they are plenteous.