Sunday, September 27, 2015

September Summary

I know y'all probably think I've been a slacker the whole month and have done nothing but watch old TV series on Netflix and eat potato chips. That's not true. At least not the potato chips part. The problem has been that I've been working on secret Christmas stuff that I can't show. I can show you the picture of the bags containing the stuff - - -
but that's all you get to see. Tomorrow it all heads by special courier to Canada where it will be picked up by another courier next month and carried on to Paris. The stuff destined for Spain will have to wait there until one of the Spanish comes to visit. It's all very complicated and involves having Christmas deadlines in September, but it saves the cost of international shipping, which is more than the cost of the goods. (I know, Auntie Lauren made them, which means they're priceless; I'm over that.)

When you prepare gifts to be scrunched into the corners of suitcases, fancy wrappings are out. In fact, TSA doesn't like it when you carry stuff that's gift wrapped and will make you unwrap it if they're having a slow day and need to break in the newest rookie. The solution is fabric gift bags, and I'm getting rather good at making them. This is a new kind I made for the first time yesterday. They look a bit like a lunch sack, but the tie means they'll stay closed. This one is filled a bit full, so the top doesn't fold down quite so neatly as in the pattern, which can be found here: Fabric Gift Bag. I have an idea I'll be making more of these before the gift-giving season is over. Perfect size for something like a pair of socks or mittens. And of course the size can be changed.

I did get a new quilt started. This one is for a young man who will be having his first birthday this coming week. I'm using the ideas in Judy Sisneros' book 9-Patch Pizzazz: Fast, Fun & Finished in a Day. The main print has so much white space between the figures that cutting it into small pieces means you only get to see bits and pieces. This allows for using bigger chunks of that fabric, but then breaking it up with nine-patches sewn from companion fabrics. I have no idea what this quilt is going to end up looking like, because the construction is very free-form. I'll just keep adding things in and taking things out until it looks the way I want it. I'm incorporating some scraps from another quilt that happened to be lying out and that turned out to be perfect color companions, so we'll see what turns out. 

Meanwhile the current Christmas crunch is over and October looks fairly clear of deadlines. There are a couple in the middle of the month, but one of those projects is nearly done and the other won't take more than a day or two once I get all the materials together in one place. I'm finishing up a couple of knitting projects that don't have any particular purpose in mind other than giving me something to knit in social settings. I'm starting on the next round of Christmas goodies. And Marketplace is less than two months away, so time to get serious about that. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

Lazy Labor Day

It may be September, but the temperatures and humidity have been as bad this weekend as they've been all summer. Needless to say, I've not been the most energetic creature on the planet. I've gotten a little bit of knitting done today, and I sewed in a label, but other than fixing food and eating I haven't done a whole lot today. So be it.

But, all things considered, this has been a productive week. Baby M is finally finished all the way to the label, although the label will need to be edited now that Baby M has made his appearance into the world two weeks early. That's easy enough to fix, and I'll get the quilt in the mail sometime this week.

Now that it's all finished, I've thought of a way I could have dealt differently with the top's refusal to lie flat. The moral of the story - don't have quilting lines cross each other. I could have quilted independent squares in each block, without crossing any seam lines, and the look of the quilt would have stayed essentially the same. I'm taking this into consideration as I'm planning the quilting in the next vintage top.

I also finished this small quilt, that I've always called Prison Bars. This one behaved a lot better, surprisingly, although the finished quilt doesn't want to lie quite flat. I suspect a bit of steam will help that happen, but for now it's going into the closet where finished quilts live. It has a label. It's official.

I'm not all together happy with the maroon binding, but this was a case of necessity dictating choices. Ideally I would have bound it with the same navy I used in the body of the quilt. But I finished this top 20 years ago, and that fabric is long gone. Since navy is one of those colors that is notoriously difficult to match, I opted to use the same fabric I used for the backing. There are small bits of that color in the print, so it's not a completely random choice. But I think it calls attention to itself a bit too much.

I do like the quilt, and I'm thinking that I may have to do another one some day. I think it was the first quilt I made where you start with a large square of fabric, cut it into segments, insert a second fabric, then recut in a different direction and square up the resulting block. Rotary cutters were a relatively new invention, and this was an early design, created by Georgia Bonesteel, that took full advantage of its capability. I think it holds up to the test of time, and I'd like to see what would happen with a feature fabric and a set of strips in coordinating solids.

The other finish for this week was a set of place mats that are to be a wedding gift. The pattern was one I bought on a trip to Iowa last fall. It uses four fat quarters. Pieces are cut and shuffled, and the result is four place mats with the fabrics in different places. I worked from yardage, so did a double set, two of each color placement. I suspect there will also be napkins before the day of the wedding, but they're just a matter of cutting the fabric and making hems.

I also spent a little time this week trying to come up with a plan for the next baby quilt, which ideally will be done by the end of the month. I bought fabrics a year ago, but coming up with a plan for using them proved a bit of a challenge. I made a couple of test blocks and wasn't at all happy with them. But now I think I have a workable idea, so before the week is over I'll start working at putting that together.

Now I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea that I have Christmas gifts that have to be finished by the end of the month. I think I need to knit faster. No - that just makes me crazy and leads to mistakes and frustration. The good news is I've discovered the newest Doctor Who series. 116 episodes suitable for binge watching! One stitch at a time.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

It's September!

And that means I have survived another summer in the Delta. I know September will still be very warm, but there's an end in sight. Can you hear me taking a deep breath and breathing a sigh of relief?

September also means my Yarn Sabbath has come to an end. It felt very strange to sit down after lunch and pick up knitting after a month of not doing that. I welcome yarn back into my life. We're still friends. But I hope I have a slightly less maniacal relationship to it. At one point this afternoon I felt my shoulders tighten up and realized I was going for some sort of land speed record with my needles. I had to stop, put the knitting down, breathe a few times, and then start out again at a deliberately slower pace. Even though I do this thing to produce lovely finished objects, I have to remind myself that it's supposed to be relaxing and meditative, not a competitive race to the finish line.

The big news of the day is that Baby M is finished. Completely finished, all the way to the labels.
I finished the hand sewing of the binding on Sunday, then gave it a day to rest. Today I went back in, finished sewing down one of the labels, and did the rest of the quilting around the outside, double checked it for anything else that was missing, and plunged it into the washing machine for its first bath. Because of the black, I was a little concerned about color transfer, so I used a Color Catcher, but there don't appear to have been any issues. After 30 minutes in the dryer I spread it out across the living room couch, which is in a cat-free zone, to finish drying. With any luck it will be on its way to its intended recipient before the end of the week. And the baby isn't due for another couple of weeks. I love it when that happens! It's so rare.

Then I gave the machine a good cleaning and started on the next project on my Fab Four list. I've always called it Prison Bars, although I think its real name is Garden Trellis or something like that. The pattern was in one of Georgia Bonesteel's books from the 90's, and I know I made the top in the summer of '95. I had a huge love affair with that print fabric. It got used as a feature fabric in at least two quilts, and I think I even found a small piece of it to put in Crazy Geese. I basted it sometime last year, and now I'm anxious to see it finished and on display somewhere. It's not very large - about 40 inches square if I remember right.

The big question mark as I started quilting this was whether or not the fusible batting I used was going to perform as it was supposed to. I had pinned around the outer edge of the quilt, just to keep some sort of accident from pulling the layers apart, but the only thing holding the middle together is the fusible adhesive. I have to say it has performed its job. Most of the middle is quilted, and there are only a few places where some minor puckering has happened. But that is more likely the fault of the piecing than anything else. I'm not doing anything fancy with the quilting, just following the outside edge of the navy bands. It's graphic enough without adding another design element to it.

With any luck I'll finish quilting this tomorrow. Then I'll have to see what the next project to go into the sewing machine will be. I've left Thangles out where I can see it, and I may try to start quilting that this week. I have an idea what I want to do with it, which is always a good place to start. I also have a bunch of pillowcases cut out and ready to sew. This is a donation project that I'm trying to get caught up on. I don't need them finished until December, but I have a bunch of them to sew. And I need to get started on a set of placemats for a wedding present. I looked today at the fabric I had thought I would use for those and realized I don't have enough, so I'll have to develop another plan. I'll study on that while I quilt tomorrow.

 And now I'm going to download the pattern I had picked out last week to cast on today, find the yarn and the needles, and start my first new knitting project in a month. I'm back!