Sunday 31 December 2017

A Homemade Christmas

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or less organized or because being short-staffed at work has impacted my outlook at home, but Christmas came much too fast this year. I didn't get anywhere near as much done as I had hoped, but sometimes I think I expect too much of a single-homeowner who works full-time. 😉 However, I was still able to get some of the important things done. Like spending time with my grandson. That's always high on my priority list. 
This year I determined to make some homemade Christmas tree decorations with him. I have a 4' green tree that I bought to use as a prop when I was teaching his Sabbath School class at church, and I was using a camping theme. I'm no longer teaching his class, and I didn't have any decorations for this tree, so this seemed like the perfect vehicle for his homemade decorations. I had bought some clear plastic baubles at Walmart in the after Christmas sales last year. I used one of the bigger ones to make a fabric decoupage bauble for my tree 
and he used a smaller one for his tree (with Grandma's help, of course).
He also filled some of the baubles
but you have to be cautious in filling them, lest the filling have too much weight for the hook. And let me forewarn you that if you try to fill them with those tiny styrofoam snowballs, static makes them stick everywhere!
Covering a styrofoam ball with pom-poms made another ornament.
The majority of the ornaments are salt-dough, cut with cookie cutters,
dried in the oven, painted and sealed with acrylic sealant spray. 
We also collected pine and spruce cones and made them into ornaments with glitter paint and ribbons. 
This one is felt glued to foam and decorated with sparkles.
I have lots more craft supplies for making ornaments, but this was sufficient for this year. However, as I was determined that, aside from the lights, and possibly the tree topper (I have an angel from my childhood tree that is probably around 50 years old that I was planning on using on this tree, but I never got all of my decorations out of the garage), all of the decorations on this tree would be homemade, I had to decide what to do about a tree skirt and garlands. I wanted Damian to be involved in as much of the production as possible, so I googled for a loom-knitted tree skirt, as I know he can loom knit. I found a pattern, but the instructions were kind of vague and left me guestimating how to make it. I bought some Bernat Blanket yarn as Damian loves soft, fuzzy things like blankets and stuffies, and got him started on the knitting loom. I hadn't counted on the attention span of a 5-year-old and knew we'd never get it done on time for Christmas, unless we had started way back in January. I finished three of the wedges myself and stitched them together, 
but I really didn't feel that they were going to work. They were lopsided and the space in the middle was going to be much too large. Knitted tree skirts are actually quite rare, so I googled and found this crocheted Snowflake Ripple Christmas tree skirt pattern that I figured would work and produced this. 
I had to abbreviate the pattern because I was using such bulky yarn and was making this for a small tree. Here it is under the tree: 
Much nicer looking, in my opinion, than the first pattern I tried. I used the leftover yarn to make the garlands, combining the red and cream for one garland and a gold tinsel-y yarn from my stash with the cream for the second garland. So, there you have it: Damian's Christmas tree. He also said that he would like a white tree, since Grandma has a white tree. So I brought in my white fibre optic tree, also about 4' tall. I never did get around to decorating it, but he was quite impressed with the fibre optics nonetheless. 
Meanwhile, I was busy trying to get some dishcloths and hot potholders completed. Unfortunately, knitting and crocheting dishcloths exacerbated my carpal tunnel syndrome, so I had to employ my splints in order to get as many done as I wanted to. 
This isn't the total haul. I actually made two more, but they had already been given away by the time I took this picture. And I still want to make one more. 
Surprisingly enough, I was initially only able to find one of the big balls of Bernat Handicrafter cotton in this Mistletoe colourway in our local Walmart. And nothing in a solid red or green. I find that the pattern shows up better when using solids than when using a variegated yarn. Walmart later got in some smaller balls in different holiday colours, which are rather expensive compared to the non-Christmas yarns, but I was able to find one more big ball of this yarn. You can tell it was from a different dye lot as the green is more faded-looking in the second ball. Most of the dishcloths have been knitted:
these 5, plus the two that have already been gifted. Each pattern is different as I'm working my way through this book:

 I'm not loom-knitting, however. I'm using needles as I find needles are faster than the loom, and the pegs are too far apart for worsted yarn on most of my looms. It makes the stitches much too loose. 
These are the crocheted dishcloths: 
Top left is the Linen Stitch dishcloth. Interesting that it's produced a sort-of plaid pattern when using this stitch. You can tell that I started the new ball about one third of the way up. Bottom left and top right are variations of Cable Stitch dishcloths. And the bottom right is one I just made up. The final one is Tunisian Crochet 
using the diagnonal stripe pattern from the Button Down Pillow found in this book: 
All of these dishcloths look like they could use a good blocking, but why would I block something that's just going into the dishwater? 
When I couldn't find a second ball of the Mistletoe Ombre, I took a brief detour with the Psychedelic colourway. 
I can't remember whether I got one or two dishcloths done in this yarn (and I don't know where they are at the moment), but when I found the second ball in the Mistletoe Ombre, I decided to continue with that colour as these are Christmas gifts. I've used the Psychedelic before, but didn't end up with this problem: 
The dye was colouring my hands, so, before I gift these dishcloths I will have to make sure I give them a dye-fixing bath. I intend to finish the whole ball, however, and then do them all at once. 
When I went to Damian's school Christmas program, I saw posters up for their pajama day the Friday before Christmas, where the students wear pajamas to school. (I have no idea if the teachers do or not...). So, in the midst of all the other Christmas hubbub, I threw together some awesome and warm pj's for my grandson from McCall's pattern M6224.
In order to complete them, I had to find my black binding, which necessitated dumping out multiple rough totes of fabric, creating havoc in my living room.
As it turned out, it wasn't a school day for Damian. He's in kindergarten and only attends Mondays, Wednesdays and alternate Fridays. So, no pajama day for him. I gave him his new pajamas for Christmas instead. 
Damian and I also took time to decorate a gingerbread house. Being a newbie builder, I incorrectly decided to put the decorations on first before building the house.
I promised him a carrot cake which will be our "plot" on which to build our house. I'm waiting for his next visit to complete this part. 
Next project was quilt-as-you-go potholders. These two have already been gifted.
Might seem bizarre, but I find that there are certain colours that don't show up well when photographed on a horizontal surface with a cell phone. These look kind of yellowed out to me. 
See: when I take the picture vertically the potholder doesn't look yellowed out like the ones in the previous photograph. 
Last time I did these potholders, I used cat fabric for the centre. This time I decided to go with these cardinals. However, I cut the cardinals out smaller than the cats, with the result that a lot of the corners are not covered by the third round of fabric strips and I have to add a little tiny piece to the corner. Frustrating, but I'll try to remember for next time. 
I've got 9 more potholders to add binding to, and one complete potholder to do and then I'll be done. 
Except that for 2018, I plan on starting in January, doing one or two a month, and then I'll be sailing come December. 

Sunday 26 November 2017

Celtic Ballad

It must be Christmas in Killarney. It's late November, there's snow on the ground, and I'm sitting here watching a Christmas movie, while working on this Irish-themed quilt.

As I finished the last butterfly, it suddenly struck me how incongruous this quilt is with the season. I should be working on a Christmas quilt. Or at the very least an autumn one. But here I was finally finishing up Celtic Ballad, a quilt I started way back in May. I had actually planned on entering this quilt in the 2017 Pantone Quilt Challenge. The quilt top was done. But sciatica intervened. As a matter of fact I believe hunching over all this intense appliquĂ© was a contributing factor in the sciatica. You can read more about that story in On Pain.  Needless to say I was in no shape to be able to quilt this project at that time. I ended up being off work for several weeks, saw at least 3 different physiotherapists, bought a TENS machine that didn't help, saw doctors several different times and tried numerous analgesics, without effect. I did the exercises the physiotherapists gave me when I could tolerate them. And finally had a CT scan, which showed that I have degenerative disc disease. And I gradually got better. But I continue the exercises to try to prevent that from happening again. My goal is to also lose the 40 extra pounds I'm carrying around, but it's a lot easier to put on than to take off. 
Regarding the Pantone Quilt Challenge, I did enter in two categories, but didn't win anything. As a matter of fact, none of the competing quilts that I thought would beat mine won anything either. You see it was a modern quilt competition. And my quilts, apparently, are not modern enough. I don't intend to enter again. I didn't even like any of the quilts that won. And I refuse to make a quilt I don't like just so that it can win. I'm not really sure why I entered. There are three things that I don't like in quilting. One is modern quilts. One is using grey in quilts (and modern quilts seem to use a lot of grey). And one is using a lot of solids in quilts (modern quilts also seem to do this as well). Oh, and a fourth is that I don't like uber scrappy quilts. These, of course, are just generalizations, and there are exceptions. 
But back to this quilt. It uses a technique called Give & Take AppliquĂ©. You apply double-sided fusible web to the back of squares of fabrics, trace the template onto the paper side, then carefully cut out the pieces, because you're going to use both the "positive" and the "negative" parts. 
You can see it better in this picture of the quilt top. The appliquĂ© pieces in the side squares are only about ½" wide, so that's what I meant by intense appliquĂ©. I literally had to hunch over these squares to see what I was doing. 
The pattern is called Celtic Ballad, though I considered calling it Ballad FĂ©ileacĂĄn, which is Irish for Butterfly Ballad. When I machine embroidered the name on the back, however, I wasn't sure if I was going to put the butterflies on or not. So I stuck with the pattern name. I believe the designer is Daphne Greig of Patchworks Studio. But I could be wrong. I can't currently find the pattern. If I do find it and I'm wrong, I will make the necessary corrections. 
Anyway, I did get around to quilting Celtic Ballad about 2 months ago. I used the Luck of the Irish pantograph. But I just tossed it on the cluttered end of my cutting table when I got home. And it disappeared under the accumulation. Today I decided to try and tackle some of the projects in that clutter, and figured I should start with this one since it was the closest one to being finished.
Binding, butterflies and even a hanging sleeve, something I rarely do. But this quilt is only about 40" square, so it's either a table topper or a wallhanging, so I decided a hanging sleeve was in order. As you can see, I did add the butterflies, following directions here: Kitchen Table Sewing, with some help from this video:
Even with this help, it was still challenging and took me awhile to figure it out. I should have just invited my great nephew Chandler over to help. Origami is one of his hobbies. But it's done now. 
The quilt had been under that clutter for so long that it looked quite wrinkled. I actually ironed it before taking the top picture. Here's the before picture:
Even after ironing, it still looks quite wrinkled and I was wondering why. The quilts I keep in my closet are stacked (and sometimes jumbled) one on top of the other, and they don't look this bad, even after washing. I finally concluded that it must be all of the Heat 'n' Bond I had to use for the appliqué. I wonder how well it washes out. But I also don't know how well those butterflies will stand up to washing...
Now I think it was prettier before I quilted it, and not so sure I want it on my wall. But the butterflies look good. 
Laundry's done. Now I need to put clean sheets on my bed so that I can climb into it. Gotta get up early for the Cyber Monday sales.

Monday 9 October 2017

Long time, no write...

Perusing my posts, I realized that it's been over 2 months since I last posted. It's not that I haven't been doing anything, but I just haven't made the time to write about it. So here goes...
First, I got a new cat from Amazon. 
Actually, this is just Mystery trying out one of the boxes from the many parcels I receive, between Amazon, Sew Sisters and Craftsy. 
I've been working on the quilt blocks for a Canada 150 quilt (better late than never), but I'll share those in a separate post. I've also been honing my Play-Doh skills with my grandson. 
I made my grandson a crocheted dinosaur, 

exercised (with help from my cats), 

started a fall-themed afghan for my daughter, 
started a bargello quilt for National Sew a Jelly Roll day, 
bought myself an Instant Pot 
and tried it out 
Lentils, Broccoli Mashed Potatoes and Carrots
Butternut Squash Risotto
and again, 
Pressure Cooker Vegan Chili

watched the birds migrate, 

found out I have degenerative disk disease, 
Sitting in the doctor's waiting room - she'd been delayed

started a Tunisian crochet afghan out of Red Heart Super Saver Stripes, Bright (love this colour scheme), 

started to clean and sanitize the cold storage room,

which is not done yet because I discoverd that a mouse or mice had gotten in there, and I had to fill holes where they might have entered with spray-in foam insulation,
watched the seasons change
October 1, 2017

from one day to the next,
October 2, 2017

started sprouting some carrot tops for my grandson to see,
and saw the beginning of Christmas decorations at Walmart before it was even Thanksgiving. 
Paw Patrol Inflatable Christmas Lawn Ornament
As you can see, I've started several projects, without finishing many, so I'd better go and get back to work. 

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Janet's Flower Garden

I believe that I've mentioned before that I dislike it when I'm crocheting in the round, and the pattern says, "You will notice the edge is starting to curl up at this stage. Don't worry, it will work itself out over the next few rounds." Or worse yet, "You will need to block it at this point to make it lie flat." For all the crochet - and knitting - projects I've done over the years, I've only ever blocked a few. I think I was still a teenager when I made an afghan for a friend's baby. The instructions said to block it so I did, though I'm not really certain why I was doing it. And I honestly don't think I needed to. I was just following instructions. Then there was the cowl I made with Charisma yarn. It was so stiff that I tried washing it to see if it would soften up, and blocking it afterwards. It didn't help. I also tried blocking the loom-knitted scarf that I made for my ex because it kept rolling up like a sausage. Blocking really didn't help that much either. (You can see both of these projects in this post). And then, of course, there are these round afghans... I really don't think that you should have to block to make crocheted circles lie flat. Years ago, I cut something out of somewhere (a magazine?) that told how to make crochet circles lie flat. It's just a matter of adding enough stitches per round. It shouldn't really be that difficult. Okay, I know that certain patterns require a certain number of stitches in order for the pattern to work out evenly. But crocheters have been making doilies for generations (and I still haven't figured out why), and they lie flat. And they have lovely, fancy patterns that work out evenly. Were people just better at math and therefore pattern development back in the "olden days" when people actually used doilies? I really don't know, but I do find it irksome. 
But with this particular afghan pattern (Queen Mandala Throw by Annamarie Esterhuizen), I found that I had to make too many adaptations to make it work. It's not that I can't follow directions - I just don't like to have to keep forcing things to work. I'm not a pattern designer, and I have a lot of respect for those who do develop patterns. But they need to work. And I feel sorry for inexperienced crocheters, who may end up thinking it's just them and not the pattern. I would really hate to see someone give up on crocheting before they really even got started because of a faulty pattern.  
So, this afghan was getting plenty big enough, and I was plenty frustrated enough, and I decided to start squaring it off. Once I got it reasonably square, I finished it off, mostly using directions from another afghan pattern (Sophie's Universe by Dedri Uys), and finally adding a butterfly on each corner, with directions (which I also had to adapt) from a youtube video. 
So I took it out this afternoon for its photo shoot.  And sooner than post all of the individual photos, I will share the video I made on Google.  
I keep trying to accomplish my goal of finishing all of my WIPs and UFOs before starting anything new, but there's always another "must do" popping up... At least I'm glad this one's finished. 

Thursday 3 August 2017

Antique Mall Field Trip

I was checking something on my blog the other day, and realized that it's been quite some time since I posted anything. So, first an update: the sciatica is much better, thank the Lord, but not totally healed. That will just take time. My leg still aches, sometimes worse than others. And the pain continues to migrate: sometimes the knee, sometimes the shin, sometimes, the thigh, the hip, the whole leg. I continue to exercise. I don't think that I've mentioned before that sometimes when I lie flat on my back, I get dizzy/nauseated (I assume due to Meniere's). And a lot of exercises for sciatica are done lying flat on your back. Earlier in this whole sciatica thing, I was limited in how much exercise I could do, not just because of the pain, but also because of the dizziness and nausea. Then not only did the pain improve, but so did the dizziness and nausea, so I was able to complete my whole regimen of exercises (given to me by 4 different physiotherapists). Recently however, nausea has returned with a vengeance. So, I took my sister's advice and took a half tablet of Gravol (she actually takes a quarter when her Meniere's flares up), which might have provided some relief. Another thing I noticed is that the nausea is worse if I don't use a pillow. This morning, I did some of my exercises while still in bed without any noticeable nausea. Okay, must use a pillow, at the very least...
So today I took my hearing aids in for servicing, had lunch and then went on a field trip to Rocky Mountain Antique Mall. I have been looking for a ladder to display my quilts and afghans in my living room. And the antique mall had several in the parking lot, but none that was really what I was looking for. Most of them were much too long. There was one that was 7 feet, but the rungs were only 13" across. I considered a wider one, but it was about 10 feet long. I would have had to have caution flags on it as it would have hung over the end of my truck. I thought about sawing off the excess right there and then (and one of the staff offered to let me use a vintage handsaw), but I really wanted any trimming to be done where I could measure and do it properly. <sigh> So I'm still considering. 
While I was there, I figured I might as well peruse the entire mall - an ambitious undertaking for someone who still has some challenges walking without pain. But I did it (not without pain, however). The first items I noticed in the parking lot were these: 
Two khaki - and therefore I assume military - stretchers. Now these are in good shape - much too good for them to have harkened back to the Second World War. Nevertheless, they are military stretchers, and my father was a stretcher bearer during WWII. And I got a catch in my throat and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Miss you, Dad.

In addition to the ladders and stretchers, I found this in the parking lot: 
Isn't that a terrible thing to do with a vintage quilt - use it to line the back of an old shelf (or whatever this is)? That shelf doesn't look like it was worth salvaging, let alone waste a vintage quilt on.
Just inside the door, I found this: 
A whole box of intact button cards - from when? The 30s? I'm not sure, and didn't notice if the tag said. Look at those colours! I actually have some of the same buttons in my button tin that came from my mother or grandmother. 
Here's a vintage blanket (quilt) rack: 
An adorable sewing box: 
Wouldn't this be a great chair to "stage"  your favourite quilt in?
I could hardly believe when I saw these pot menders were from my hometown! Unfortunately the flash made it difficult to read the words: "Assembled at Friendco Sheltered Workshop, St. Thomas, Ont." I remember Friendco, or the Friendship School as it was also known. It was for the developmentally disabled.
I don't remember the story behind it (if I ever knew), but in my family a dressform like this was referred to as "Dumb Dora." 
It was cheaper than the new one I bought for my daughter, and she probably would have liked the vintage one better. 
A yarn winder:
Another vintage quilt, only this one is being sold as a quilt and not being used as the backing for a shelving unit:
One of those built-in ironing boards - I guess you could fit it between the studs. Kind of a cool idea, actually. 
I had one of these orange tractors when I was a child, and I remember it with great fondness. But I didn't scribble on mine. And I highly doubt that my parents paid the amount this vendor is asking.
For the John Deere fans in the family, specifically my grandson and my great nephew, Jake. 
I can't remember the price on this baby. I think it was under $100.

I also saw a Featherweight for $280, but it didn't get its picture taken. 
And finally, what I kept going back to:

Yes, two 1920s black walnut twin beds, going for an amazing price. These interested me far more than the ladders in the parking lot. If I'd known that they would both fit into one of my spare bedrooms, they likely would have come home with me. And think of how well they would show off any quilt placed upon them. Would they look ridiculous in a 1970s house? Never mind - my dream home is one of those big old brick farmhouses in southwestern Ontario. 
I'm going upstairs to measure.