Tuesday 22 December 2015

A Nativity Set for Damian

Most nativity sets are not very child-friendly, easily broken or damaged. And I suppose there are some people who might consider it irreverent to allow a child to play with a nativity set. But I have a 3-year-old grandson and I want him to experience the joy and reality of salvation, including Jesus' willingness to be born in a stable for you and me. So, when I saw this Nativity Scene to sew and stuff at Fabricland a couple of years ago, I decided to purchase it for my grandson. I have to admit that I don't always get things done as soon as I would like to, but this year I decided to haul this out and stitch it up. 
I made it totally kid-friendly and as indestructible as possible. The instructions said to put cardboard in the base of the figures, but you just never know when there might be a flood and the cardboard would end up mushy (especially with a 3-year-old in the house, or even a sometimes klutzy grandma). So I used plastic canvas instead. The stable background is lined with 2 layers of polyester fleece with plastic canvas sandwiched in between. This was made according to the instructions, however, if I had to do it over again, I would use polyester fibrefil batting instead of the fleece. Fleece stretches too much. Besides, no one said that the stable was insulated. :-) 
If you're interested in making a set like this, it's the Nativity Scene, one of the "Keepsake Crafts," VIP by Cranston, copyright 2006. I've seen it on ebay, but it's a lot more expensive than what I paid at Fabricland. 
I also have a couple more Christmas projects in my fabric stash: another one for Damian,
a soft quilted book on the Nativity. I just want to point something out that is a pet peeve of mine. Note that this panel says, "He was born in a manger." No, Mary did not climb into the manger to give birth. He was born in a stable (or some version thereof appropriate to the place and time) and she "wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger." Luke 2:7. End of rant.
The other is a full panel of the nativity scene to use as a wall hanging.
These last two are not likely to get stitched up in time for this Christmas, however. Too many other projects on the go. Perhaps next year. 
Wishing everyone the peace and joy that comes from serving the Saviour who was born on that long ago night in Bethlehem. Merry Christmas.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Must be Crazy

As I was driving into the city for the second time today, I couldn't help thinking, "I must be crazy." No, not because I was heading into the city for the second time in one day (although that may not be considered entirely sane), but because I was taking along my 3-year-old grandson, Damian, and my 9-year-old great nephew, Richmond, on a trip in which I planned to go to Michael's and Fabricland. Not exactly places to which you normally take little boys. Sure I was going to Home Depot first, but that was just to drop off the nailer we had rented on the first trip in that didn't work. More about that in another post. 
I grew up in a family of girls - 6 of us with only one brother. I had only had one child, my daughter Sophia, so dealing with little boys is not something I have a great deal of experience with. And here I was taking two of them to stores that are more traditionally women's turf. And definitely not children's turf. And then there were the more practical things like how was I going to manage going to the bathroom? 
It started when my niece's husband came over to install my baseboard with Richmond in tow. Richmond is old enough to stay out of his father's way while he was working, but Damian is not, yet he wanted to be where Richmond was. I couldn't be downstairs watching him as I wanted to return the non-working nailer and make the most of the second trip by visiting Michael's and Fabricland. Sophia had a friend visiting, so she didn't want to have to sit downstairs in the "construction zone" to monitor her son. Damian is almost always game to go wherever Grandma goes, so he was willing to come with me, but wanted Richmond to come along. After getting permission from Richmond's father and making sure he had a jacket on, we headed out on the road. And it wasn't till we were well on our way to the city that I realized what a crazy thing I'd done. It was as I was listening to the interesting noises emanating from the back seat. Those were definitely not little girl noises... 
In spite of my trepidation, the trip went well. At Michael's, Richmond decided he wanted some yarn, so I asked him if he wanted to learn to crochet. After receiving an affirmative response, I let him pick out some yarn and I selected a crochet hook for him. Crocheting lessons coming up... Damian, of course, couldn't be left out, so I allowed him to select a skein of yarn as well, even though I've already given him a ball of yarn and a hook. So nice of Michael's to be having a sale on Red Heart Soft yarn, exactly the yarn called for in the pattern for October's Fair Isle Crochet Cowl. Here's my haul from Michael's. 
The yarn on the left is for the cowl. The purple variegated is the one Damian selected and the Red Heart Super Saver in fiesta is Richmond's. Now I need to find a single skein beginner project for Richmond to start on. 
Fabricland was our final stop. Let me explain the purpose behind this particular Fabricland visit. A couple of friends at work have been admiring my quilts and wanting to learn how to quilt themselves. Initially, I was going to invite them over once I get my studio finished. But then I got to thinking that there may be others who would like to learn. I remember I looked for a quilting class in town way back when I wanted to learn and ended up having to learn from books and magazines. So I decided to see if there would be interest in a class. I contacted our local "Learning Network" and offered my services as a quilting instructor. Now I have to draw up a proposal outlining the materials needed, how much I would charge, how many nights, etc. So I figured I needed to start by designing an appropriate quilt for a beginner and then making it. I actually decided to make two samples. For the first sample I decided to use some fabric from my stash as the feature fabric and bought some coordinating fabrics at my LQS. Here's the fabric for the first quilt:
The fabric on the left is the feature fabric, Snowflake Stripe by Michael Miller. The other fabrics are Michael Miller as well. While at the LQS, I finally decided to break down and purchase an annual membership. It's rather expensive, $100, but it gives you 40% off everything all year, even on most sale items. I calculated I need to purchase $250 (pre-discount) worth of fabric and supplies to pay for the membership. I plan to keep track to determine if the membership is worthwhile. With the increased exchange cost on the Canadian vs. US dollar, I won't be buying as much online. And trips to the city can get costly in both time and money as well. 
So back to my trip to Fabricland... In the latest flyer, they had some animal prints on sale and I wanted to do the second quilt where I fussy-cut the feature squares. So I wanted to see if these animal prints would work. Unfortunately, my closest Fabricland did not receive any of these prints. But they did have some other ones on sale for a couple of dollars/metre more. I opted for an African animal print. I'm hoping the other two prints look sort of "African native." And the third embroidered fabric just more or less coordinated with the two prints. 
I also picked up some serger thread in bright colours as I want to use them to edge the samplers I made in my machine quilting class.
By the time I was paying for my purchases, Richmond and Damian were starting to get on each other's nerves and Damian was getting a little hyper as he was overdue for a nap. Once on the road back home again, he was asleep within 5 minutes. 
While I was taking these pictures, my grandson wanted to get in on the act and was quite enjoying piling the yarn on his lap. Then I sat him in the chair with the animal print in the background and the other fabrics on his lap. He was quite happy with that, but got rather tearful when I took him out to take a shot without him. He has decided that that fabric is his, especially the animal print. So he's back in the chair with the fabric. I also got out the Go Wild quilt to see if he'd take that instead, but he just wanted that added to the pile.
He's now contentedly making animal noises in the chair with all the fabric and the quilt. I guess when the new quilt is not being used as a sample in class, it will likely be his quilt. Unless I can convince him to take a dinosaur quilt instead. My LQS has a kit with a dinosaur panel and 6 - 1/2 metres of coordinating fabric. He really loves dinosaurs and I was thinking of making him a twin-sized quilt for his bed out of that. 
Meanwhile I finished the Entrelac Crochet Cowl a week ago. It calls for a 4 (worsted) weight yarn, but I was in Michael's and they had Loops and Threads Charisma yarn, a 5 (bulky) weight on sale and I was inspired by the Bouquet colour. So I decided to give it a try in this pattern. Since Entrelac uses single crochet, it is pretty dense and stiff, especially with the bulky yarn. I was hoping that rinsing it would soften it up, but when I took it out of the washing machine, it was almost plank-like. LOL! Here it is being blocked.
After sewing up the seam, I tried it on and snapped some pictures.
It's a rather long cowl and the pattern showed it wrapped around the neck twice. 
This is definitely a warm cowl - see my glasses steamed up - and I joked about it being able to double as a cervical collar in case of whiplash. Hopefully, the stiches will relax more after several washings. My daughter suggested that I try fabric softener, but that can also "bulk up" fabric, so I opted not to try that. Here's a close up of the stiches.
That's all for now. The good news is the renovations to my "studio" are almost finished. I need to hang the pegboard on the wall and the window casing needs to be done. But I can already start moving the furniture in. I will share more about the renovation process in another post. 

Monday 7 September 2015

Vivaldi Throw & Craft Photography

There's more to being a good photographer than just snapping a few pictures.

Years ago when my sister-in-law was married, she and her groom hired a friend who was an amateur photographer to do the wedding pictures. Now, I have nothing against utilizing the services of an amateur or hobbyist. My brother-in-law Lawrence has done numerous weddings for family and friends, with good results. He finally had to refuse to do wedding photography so that he could actually relax and enjoy the wedding. While even professional photographers will have a few duds (why do you think they take so many shots of the same thing?), this particular photographer didn't seem to have a clue about staging a photo. He didn't seem to know how to use the environment to its best advantage in the pictures. And I distinctly remember him taking a lot of the outdoor pictures with the subjects facing the sun. Having fancy and expensive camera equipment does not a photographer make. It also requires some skill and know-how. 
I have never claimed photography as one of my skills or hobbies. However, I do like my pictures to have an overall pleasing effect. Whenever possible, I like to compose them so that they have eye appeal. While I like to have at least one "whole project" picture of each of my craft projects, I've also started to try some shots with more interest. It started with this peacock chair. 
I really like this chair and bought it at a yard sale. However, it's not really practical as a chair. It's not particularly comfortable and it takes up a lot of space. I considered getting rid of it. But it makes an awesome prop for taking pictures of my quilts and afghans. And so I kept it. Then I picked this chair up at a thrift store. 
However, I soon learned that this one would not work for anything bigger than a crib quilt,
as the chair pretty much disappeared. Here it is with the Scappy Shine quilt, my childhood teddy bear, Yogi, and a tin I have for sewing supplies. 
When I started the Sophie's Universe CAL, someone on the Official CCC Social Group on facebook suggested that we post pictures of our Sophies outdoors. So, once she got to a reasonable size, I dutifully took my Sophie to our local park. 
It was a windy day and I didn't have anything to hold Sophie in place, aside from her own weight,
so some of my picture-taking attempts were not that successful. Nevertheless, 
for a small town park, it did provide me with some good venues for photography.
I used the picture below (or was it the one above) as my cover photo on facebook
and a friend responded that it was such a good picture that it should be on the cover of a quilting magazine. I will forgive her for not recognizing it's an afghan, not a quilt.
Next I posted my progress on the Vivaldi Throw
with pictures taken in my own yard. 
Another friend saw these pictures on facebook and offered to buy Vivaldi. Instead, it became a gift for her 50th wedding anniversary. When it was finally finished, I blocked it in my holiday trailer
and took the first picture of the completed afghan (my grandson in the foreground). Here's a closeup: 
I took it to the park as well.
And snapped a few photos.
While I was taking the photo below, a woman called out from the other side of the river (over which this bridge spanned), saying what a beautiful afghan it is and could she take a picture as well. 
So I allowed her the privilege, and encouraged her daughter, who had learned to crochet, to continue the hobby. The following is my favourite of the Vivaldi Throw.
So if I ever get tired of nursing for a living, maybe I'll try craft photography. :-)
Update on other projects: I've finished both sides of the Feileacan shawl and just have to finish the celtic knot butterflies for the centre back. For the choo-choo train afghan, I still have to add fringe to one end and crochet and applique the train cars. I haven't made any recent progress on the train cardigan and the cowls are on hold until I get these other projects done. As far as the renovations go, I supposedly hired someone to finish them, but he said he said he'd get to them in a week to a week and a half and that was about a month ago. I haven't heard from him since. I may just have to go ahead and try to complete them myself if I ever want my house in order again. Now that Sophia and Damian are living under my roof, it's even more important. 

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Another Fair, More Ribbons

At the next country fair in our area, I entered even more items than at the previous one and brought home 6 red (firsts) and 3 blues (seconds). Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, which is too bad because they had the larger quilts displayed nicely at the fair. I took these photos at home afterwards. 
The Florence Nightingale quilt and So You Think You Can Quilt both took red ribbons again,

while this time the Scrappy Shine quilt and the Firecracker Throw got reds as well. They both placed second in the previous fair. 

There was a Paper Pieced class at this fair, so I also entered the Dreamweaver Quilt 
which was awarded a blue ribbon.
I entered two different cowls in this show, the two dropped stitch cowls. The knitted one took a blue ribbon
and the crocheted one was awarded a red. 
In the Small Crocheted Article, I entered my Argyle Crochet Pot Holder, which won a red ribbon.
And finally I decided to include my first attempt at an acrylic painting (outside of the practice ones I did in class). 
Surprisingly, my Painted Trillium won a second. 
That's it for fair season this year. Now that the "fair bug" has bitten, I intend to plan better for next year's fairs. 

Sunday 9 August 2015

My First Fair Entries

This is my last day of vacation. During my vacation, my daughter and I took Damian to the local fair. It was kind of a bust for a toddler, not quite 3 years old. Most of the rides are too advanced for him. And the bouncy castle had too many bigger kids in it for it to be safe for him. The petting zoo had so many other kids that Damian found it overwhelming. And the bench show was rather disappointing for me as well. Only 4 quilted items total, all of which were small items. No large quilts.There was only one knitted afghan which was barely baby size, no crocheted afghan, and a few smaller items in those categories. And that for a town of 6000 with the largest fair in the area. It got me to thinking about entering some of my projects. 
I first started thinking about entering my projects many years ago when I was still living in London, Ontario. While visiting the Western Fair, I noticed a cake that had won a ribbon that was just covered with stars (different colours, according to the desired design), which is one of the simplest ways to decorate a cake. And I knew I could do better than that as I was into cake decorating at that time. However, I never followed up. Then, when my daughter was younger and we were living in Alberta, I helped her enter several projects in the local fairs. It seems almost every little community in rural Alberta has a fair or rodeo. So my daughter entered in the bigger fair in town, and a couple of smaller fairs in other communities. 
After seeing the rather dismal display at the local fair, I remembered that the two other area fairs were around the same time as our fair. And decided to investigate. Sure enough, today was the one in the small hamlet and this coming Wednesday is the one in a nearby village. Since I had never entered anything in a fair before, I had a collection of projects that qualified to enter. (You cannot enter the same item in the same fair more than once). I managed to come up with 7 items to enter: a large quilt, a crib quilt, a small quilted article, a knitted article not listed (cowl), crocheted doll clothes, crocheted afghan, and a crocheted item not listed (another cowl). And I brought home a ribbon for each one!
You may remember that I have said before that I do not make "show quality" quilts, so I did not expect to win much, if anything for my quilts. However, entering a quilt in a quilt show and entering one in a local country fair are not the same thing. 
Here's the rundown of my ribbons, just note that red ribbons are first place in Canada and blue ribbons are second place. 
The Florence Nightingale qult 

won first place in the Large Quilt class.

The Scrappy Shine quilt

won second place in the crib quilt class.

So You Think You Can Quilt
won first place in the Small Quilted Article class.
Candi's Checked Cowl
won first place in the Other Knitted Article Not Listed class.
My toilet paper doll won first place in the Crocheted Doll Clothes class (second place winner in the background).
The Firecracker Throw
won second place in the Crocheted Afghan class (first place in background, third place on the left).
And the Twisted Cowl
won second place in the Other Crocheted Article Not listed class (seen here in the background with the first place item in the foreground).
On Wednesday, I will enter some items in the next fair. I haven't decided if I'll enter all of the same items or not. I have other cowls that could be entered that I will not have the opportunity to enter again as they will be given away at Christmas. 
This was fun. There was more competition in this small fair than there would have been had I entered the one in town. And I earned a little money, too, as there are small cash prizes along with the ribbons. Next year, I will likely have entries in all three fairs, but I might be competing against my daughter as she is resuming her hobbies of quilting and crocheting. And that will make me proud. And I intend for my grandson to begin his fair entries as well.