Sunday, 23 June 2019

Neutral Territory

I bought the jelly roll used in this quilt at a Christmas craft and bake sale this past year. It's Tim Holz Eclectic Elements, and it was only $10. A steal, really, and the fabric is quite interesting: dictionary pages, music scores, posters, lepidoptera, maps, etc. Definitely eclectic. So it appealed to me for it's uniqueness. However, if I had to do it over again, I would likely have used it in a larger quilt with a darker or brighter coloured fabric for contrast, because, as you can see, it's mostly beige. Boring Beige, which is what I could have called this quilt, except that that's not a very appealing name. So I chose Neutral Territory. And it has so much neutral and so little contrast that you can barely discern any pattern. I used the 9-Patch pattern in this book: 

 It's a nice and reasonably simple pattern, but unless you get up close and personal with this quilt, you really can't see it. But I was really just putting this quilt together to have something to practice with my Amara as I was still having issues. And this time the cotton thread misbehaved, but with the help of a piece of batting in the thread guide above the cone of thread, I was able to use polyester. This was good news since I've got several hundred dollars tied up in polyester thread. And, to give this quilt a little more pizzazz, I chose the Funky Music pantograph by Beany Girl Quilts from Willow Leaf Studio. It's challenging and the quilting is quite dense. Maybe overkill? But it was fun and I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out looking as good as it does. With all of those corners, angles, straight lines, I really wasn't sure how well it would turn out. 
But they are readily identifiable music symbols. And I used leftovers from the jelly roll to make a scrappy binding. 
Another note about this jelly roll: pieces not all the same width or length (not as bad as the non-jelly roll I used in Baby Blues, but enough that it was frustrating), and most of them were actually a little wider than 2½", which threw my blocks out. And just saying, if I haven't said this before, I really do NOT like pinked edges. They're too inconsistent in where the actual precut measurement falls. These ones seemed to fall somewhere between the peak and the valley. 
Now I have to figure out what to do with this quilt. It wasn't made with any particular recipient in mind. Maybe I should just use it as a dust cover for my Amara. Perhaps I shall try to sell it. I certainly could use the money. I've overspent lately on fabric (no surprise there) and really should start earning some extra money to pay for my extravagance. 😁

Lilac Grove


Not so long ago (2015?) and not so far away, Walmart had a sale on Bernat Blanket yarn. I hadn't tried this yarn before, but the pickings were slim so I ended up with a skein or two of the Lilac Bush colourway. As this was insufficient to make an afghan (at least, not an adult sized one), I did pay full price to acquire the remainder of what I needed when I found it available. Then I started knitting an afghan. I think I had actually wanted to try a cable stitch and I don't recall why I chose against it. Perhaps it was to help fulfill my goal of completing at least one project from every craft pattern book I own. I actually started this one prior to Lavender Rhapsody, which was my first project with Bernat Bundle yarn, but I finished that one first. I chose the Toasty Warm pattern from this book However, the pattern instructions have you repeat bands of four rows of garter stitch following 8 rows of pattern, but the pictures did not show any bands of garter stitch, other than the beginning and ending, so I opted to skip them. 
I also used curtain rings to separate the pattern sections, which you can see on the needle in the above picture. When knitting, I find I can't see the stitches on the needle well enough to know where I am in the pattern, and if I lose track, it can end up a mess. So I find using some kind of stitch markers, even if not called for in the pattern, help me keep on track. 
Being a not-highly-experienced knitter, I was pleased with how my stitches turned out. 
I'm not sure why the pattern started with 4 rows of garter stitch and ended with 6, but I just ended with 4. I also skipped the fringe called for in the pattern as my afghan was already plenty big enough, about 60" x 70". You can see in the top picture that it almost covers my queen-size mattress. It's also pretty heavy and the weight of it dragged it down when I tried to hang it on the line for pictures. So I got Allan, who was there working on my fence, to hold it from the deck. 
Difficult to get it stretched out wide enough and keep it high enough so it wasn't dragging on the ground. That's when I took it inside and spread it on my mattress.
Another WIP finished! I'm trying to discipline myself to not buy any more yarn, other than what I may need to complete a project, until all of my WIPs and UFOs are finished. That's challenging enough, especially when a beautiful yarn that I haven't tried yet is on sale. But it's nowhere near as challenging as doing the same for fabric. 

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Irene's Rubies

This is my first signature quilt. While I was working as Director of Care in a nursing home, my senior nurse retired. I wanted to make her a signature quilt and have all of the staff members sign it. However, I lost that job - I was going to say "unfortunately," but the only things unfortunate about it were a) my staff were left without effective leadership that genuinely cared about them and b) I didn't get this quilt made before I left. So, aside from my signature, it will be up to the recipient to get the signatures if she so desires. It's an attractive quilt even without the signatures.
Before she retired, I asked her what her favourite colour is: red. So I chose the Boundless Ruby Rue fabric from Bluprint (Craftsy).  
This was my very first signature quilt, so I googled to find ideas. I had the signature block from my Canada 150 Sampler quilt,
but I didn't want such big blocks. There were 70-80 staff members that needed to sign, and this is a 10" block. I did not intend to make a queen-sized quilt. In my search, I found the directions for making the basic signature block I used here, and the layout here
I bought a warm white solid for the signature part and the cornerstones, and cut 2½" squares from from jelly roll strips for the corners.
I have to admit that I really like the looks of this layout. It will hold 100 signatures and measures 36" square (finished size), so it could be finished this size and used as a wallhanging. However, I wanted a throw-sized quilt, so determined to add a border of 12" quilt blocks.
By this time I had made up my mind to call this quilt Irene's Rubies. Irene is the recipient and the fabric is Ruby Rue. Meanwhile I was trying to determine what block to use and I remembered that in the book Lazy and Loving It (companion book for the Lazy Angle ruler), was at least one gemstone block, Sapphires, that might work. But there are still boxes, fabric, books, etc. piled everywhere in my craft studio and I couldn't find that book. I found a picture of it online, so I at least knew what it looked like and that I was looking for a blue book. But I could not find that blue book on my shelf. Until I prayed about it. And there it was on the shelf where I was sure I had checked any blue book on that shelf already! Thank the Lord. He does care about little things like quilt books. And not only was there a Sapphires block and a Diamonds block, but also a Rubies block. 
It is a rather labour-intensive block and between these blocks and the signature blocks, there was a lot of fabric wastage. So the Lazy Angle will not be one of my favourite rulers, but it's nowhere near as bad as the Bias Stripper or the Square in a Square. And now I have completed one quilt using the Lazy Angle ruler (remember I have a goal to make at least one quilt using each ruler I own).
I decided to add a narrow border out of the same fabric as the sashing in the signature section to give it a more cohesive look. 
In keeping with the red theme, I used the Moulin Rouge pantograph by Patricia E. Ritter from Urban Elementz, "rouge" being the French word for "red," and quilted it in a red Glide thread. This is a beautiful pantograph and not too difficult.
I finally put my clothesline up to get a picture of the full quilt. Unfortunately, the wind was strong and I had to have help holding the quilt in place. Allan (my ex-husband, friend and handyman) happened to show up while I was struggling to get the picture, so those are his fingers you see at the top left corner and side of the quilt. Thanks Allan, I couldn't have done it without you. 😊
Now I have to find a box for shipping it to Irene. I'm having a problem with locating boxes of the right sizes for shipping quilts. I may have to buy some from Staples.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Moonstruck

I find it rather amusing that most of the fabric pre-cuts have dessert names: layer cakes, jelly rolls, honey buns. Was a bundle of 6" fabric strips ever called something "sweet"? Until I got the book I had personally never tried 6" strips. I got this book as part of the Stuff Your Stocking event from Sew Sisters a couple of years ago. Initially I thought that these precuts would be as useful as jelly rolls and layer cakes. Wrong! Once I perused the patterns, I realized that I would be cutting measurements like 5⅜", 2½", 4¼", thus wasting fabric. I hate wasting fabric. Therefore, I'm really not sure what practical use 6" strips are over yardage. However, as you know my goal is to make at least one project from each craft book I own. And Craftsy/Bluprint had the Moon Shadow colourway of the Boundless Botanical fabric precuts on sale. I had been admiring this particular colourway for a while. Plus, I needed another baby quilt and I didn't know the gender of the baby when I purchased the fabric. This is a relatively neutral colourway that would work well for either gender. 
This pattern is called Monarch Madness. I'm not sure if that's monarch, as in the butterfly or as in the ruler. Regardless, I didn't intend to keep that name and combined Moon Shadow with Monarch Madness, and came up with lunacy, which is madness associated with the moon. However, that really wasn't a satisfactory name for a baby's quilt. Looking up the definition of lunacy online, I found:
The word derives from lunaticus meaning "of the moon" or "moonstruck".
So, Moonstruck it became, which I think is a much more appropriate name. 
I used the Zoidberg Feathers pantograph by Barbara Becker from Urban Elementz to quilt it, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.
If I find any more 6" strips for a really good price, I might try out more patterns in this book. They are quite attractive and I don't mind wasting fabric quite so much as long as I didn't pay through the nose for it.

Wintry Woods

Evidently, this colour is a photographic challenge, as I had to apply a filter to get it to look more like it does in real life. It's still a little too brownish. The fabric in this quilt actually started out as a QAL (quilt-a-long) or a BOM (block of the month), not sure which and it doesn't really matter. I really liked the look of these two fabrics together and planned on making it for my nephew Justin as his favourite colour is green. However, as the QAL progressed, I was not liking all of the blocks and didn't feel that they necessarily suited this fabric.
I decided to try substituting other blocks for the ones I didn't like, but then I started having to use additional fabrics. (Centre block in the above photo is made with a third fabric). And I didn't like the look as well. I decided that I just wanted to use these two fabrics, and it's not easy finding quilt blocks or even a whole quilt that uses just two fabrics. And I'm not talking two fabrics and a background fabric. I'm talking just two fabrics. I searched the internet and was able to find this Black Beauty Quilt pattern from Ludlow Quilt and Sew. (Rose Smith, the owner of Ludlow Quilt and Sew, and I became online quilting friends through a quilting group on Google+. Not sure why Google killed Google+. I really liked it). But back to the quilt pattern - unfortunately, it was only for a 32" quilt, and I wanted a 60" quilt. So, I got out my graph paper (not yet being able to afford EQ8) and added to the design so that it would finish out at the desired size. 
I'm really thankful for graph paper because I've put it to good use in my quilt-making. 
While the quilt itself was not a challenging design, I determined to keep all of the trees upright, and that was the challenging part. And I think I accomplished it. 
I started with a fussy-cut centre, to highlight the deer silhouette. 
Unfortunately, once I quilted it, the deer was not as obvious. 
I think I finished the quilt top back in 2017 and decided on the Pine Bough pantograph by Laura Estes for Urban Elementz. 
As this pantograph is quite detailed, involving lots of points, I knew it would be rather labour-intensive and time consuming, so I was reluctant to pay to quilt it on the longarm.
And then it receded into my pile of UFOs to be retrieved when I purchased my Amara. Initially, I wasn't all that happy with this pantograph, thinking that the pine needles just look like "scribbling." And, as I pointed out, it sort of obliterated the deer in the centre. However, upon reflection, I do find it an attractive design and suitable to the quilt fabric. I likely would have chosen a different colour thread if I had to do it over again. I chose a darker green that blended well with the dark fabric, but it detracted from the scenic fabric. In hindsight, I would have used a thread that blended better with the scenic fabric. Live and learn.
Awaiting Binding
This is my first totally monochromatic quilt. Yes, I have done other quilts with mostly or all one colour with a background colour, but never totally one colour. And I really like it. I find it really peaceful, especially the scenic fabric. It reminds me of the Robert Frost poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. I know there are some people who insist that the poet is expressing suicidal ideation in this poem and there must be some deep hidden meaning, but I think that's malarkey. I suppose it's because I can actually relate to the sentiments that I feel are expressed. I love the woods and the look of those big flakes of snow drifting peacefully down. And I can understand the desire to stop and enjoy the beauty while taking a breather from the stresses of everyday life. And that's what I think this quilt expresses. And I hope my nephew can see that, too.

I still have all of the original quilt blocks from the QAL somewhere in my stash, that I will have to determine what I'm going to do with. But, as I have yet to determine a recipient, they can wait. 


Monday, 18 March 2019

Baby Blues

One of my favourite antique malls had a vintage sewing and crafting show and sale last month, where I spied what I thought were several flannelette jelly rolls for $9 each, and so I purchased one in blue children's fabrics. When I make a quilt for a baby or child, I don't normally use fabric specific for children or babies. I like to make them big enough and with non-age specific fabric so that the child can use them throughout life, if the quilt lasts that long, without them being embarrassed by the rubber ducks or teddy bears or whatever on the fabric. However, I had one more baby boy quilt to make, and this appeared to be a deal too good to pass up. Was I wrong! First of all the strips were not 2½" wide, nor were they all the same width. They were an inconsistent 2", and some were so poorly cut, that they varied in width from one end to the other. They were not all the same length. Some were cut lengthwise along the selvage, and included the selvage and the warning to not use this fabric in children's sleepwear! At least one strip had a flaw in it that rendered that section of the strip unusuable. I later told my buddy Phil, who had been with me at the antique mall, that if this mock jelly roll had been sold by a quilter, she (or he) should be ashamed of herself, selling to other quilters what should be thrown in the garbage, or at the very least sold as "scraps" or "as is." Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). 
At the same time (and from the same booth), I purchased this book:
 I had every intention of using my not-a-jelly-roll for one of the patterns in this book, so I was quite disappointed to find that it wasn't going to work. But I do like a challenge and am good at math. With some major recalculations, I was able to figure out how to use my strips for the Decadent Victorian pattern. I planned on reducing the size of the quilt anyway, but by eliminating borders, not by having strips that were smaller than I had realized. I purchased some fabric for the borders (medium blue and navy blue). I probably have enough leftover strips that I might have been able to finish the quilt top with them, but I was tired of having to work with these wonky pieces of fabric. And I felt that it was already scrappy enough. I needed some consistent fabric to give it more structure. I had to buy something for the backing and binding anyway. The backing is the navy blue snowflake. It looks black in the picture, but it is dark blue. The main medallion follows the pattern, with my recalculations, but I did the borders a little differently.
All my quilts are cat-tested and approved, and this quilt was no exception. I put that pink and red cushion on the corner of the table beside my sewing machine for Mystery because he loves to be near me wherever I am in the house. However, he thinks it's far preferable to test out whatever project I am working on rather than sleep on his cushion. Because this quilt is made of flannelette, his hair sticks to it like glue. And it was very noticeable on the dark backing. So, I went over both front and back vigorously with my lint roller once the quilt was finished. 
For the quilting, I used this sample cone of Superior Threads Magnifico that came with my machine. 
It's such a pretty blue. I used the Animal Crackers pantograph (Patricia E. Ritter/Urban Elementz). 
Can you see the lion, the giraffe and the elephant? Unfortunately, I was having major issues with "eyelashes" in my quilting, something which I haven't quite resolved to my satisfaction. 
I was able to find a good match in my thread stash for topstitching the binding (which is what I was doing when Mystery decided to test the quilt).
All things considered, I think it turned out quite well for my first flannelette quilt. 
But I'm not finished telling about my shopping trip. After the antique mall, we went to a thrift store. And honestly, I was whining because it's in a busy part of town with a tight parking lot - not fun when you drive a full-sized pickup truck. However, I did apologize and was even more apologetic when we entered the store and I almost immediately found the Dear Jane book. I have been wanting one for some time and put it in my Amazon wish list. I didn't buy it, however, when it was $40 or $50. And now the cheapest you can find it for on Amazon is $158.24. I don't know who would even consider spending that kind of money on it, but I have seen it for over $1000! 😮 Seriously, this is not the Geneva Bible we're talking about or an original Charles Dickens or Jane Austen. It just happens to no longer be in print and all that's available is software now. And I wanted the book, not the software. So when I found it in a thrift store for $3.75, I was thrilled. Plus I got a couple of other quilting books for even less because they were on half price that day. All in all, it was a good shopping day, in spite of the less than perfect fabric purchase. And I was still able to make a quilt with the fabric strips and figure I probably got my $9 worth out of them. I actually went back to pick up another one of the fabric rolls before I checked out, but couldn't find the booth again. I thank the Lord that I didn't. While I was able to make do with the one that I had, I wouldn't have wanted that disappointment and headache with a second (or a third?) one. I think there had been four and I had been tempted to buy all of them. 
When life hands you lemons,
you can make lemonade.
And when life hands you scraps, 
you can make a quilt!

Sunday, 10 February 2019

A Quartet of St. Patrick's Day Dishcloths

Having started a new job in January, I had to spend several days in a classroom for training. I get bored easily sitting in a classroom, so like to take along some crocheting to keep my hands occupied so that my mind can pay attention. I don't like to take knitting projects because it's much more challenging to stop in the middle of a row, not lose stitches and know which direction you're going in. I have actually picked up a knitting project before and started knitting in the wrong direction. Not good. 
While I didn't really need any new dishcloths, they are an easy take along project. And I have a whole large bin of cotton yarn. I started out with the Hostess Dishcloths pattern from the Bernat book, Let's Dish
It's a pretty basic pattern and I gave all four of these away to my class instructors. Next, I decided to try the Pastel Eggs pattern in this book. 
As you can see, mine really didn't come out looking too much like an egg. One of my great nephews was visiting while I was finishing the edging at home, and we both had a good laugh over it. I'm not likely to repeat this pattern. It's not good enough to share and I don't really need any more deformed dishcloths. 😄 
The interesting thing about Let's Dish is that, while it goes through the calendar, offering dishcloth patterns for various occasions and holidays, there is not a single one for St. Patrick's Day. And, being of (half) Irish descent, that is important to me. I had already made the Celtic Knot dishcloth, which I consider relatively useless.
I haven't tried it yet, but I question the effectiveness of a dishcloth with more holes than fibre. 
Next, I did the Crochet Shamrock Dishcloth
It looks good, but it is kind of tedious to make for something that is probably no more useful than the Celtic Knot. Instead of making any more of these, and still having more class time to occupy, I just made another Hostess Dishcloth with the green yarn. 
Definitely much more practical than the previous two.
In my googling, I also found a knitted St. Patrick's Day Cloth. While I didn't intend to knit this one in class, it was the most practical one I found, and I made this one at home. 
Enough of dishcloths for now, I've got too many other projects to work on. 

Monday, 28 January 2019

2018 Crafting Year in Review

I'm rather late getting my "year in review" post done, but I wasn't sure if I was even going to bother doing one. After packaging up 5 quilts for the recipients today, I thought it would be a good idea to do a review after all, just to see what I've actually accomplished craft-wise. I think I will keep my comments to a minimum and just let the pictures speak for themselves. 
 Potholders and dishcloths, First Finish of the Year

 Orange dishcloths for my daughter
 More dishcloths
 I wanted to see how many dishcloths I could make out of one Big Ball of Bernat Handicrafter Cotton.
 Even more dishcloths
 And a not-too-successful attempt at crocheting a bowl to put them in.
 They're reproducing! 
This pattern is one of my favourites.
(I still have to tack down the hanging sleeve on this one, but the quilt itself is finished).
Not much in the way of crocheting finishes this year, only dishcloths. Knitting: more dishcloths and two afghans. Eight quilts, five of which were completed on my own longarm. It's amazing how much more quilting you can get done when you have one at home!
Hopefully, 2019 will be even more productive, especially now that I'm only working 4 days a week. I think I'd better get more of those crochet projects finished.