Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Halloween is over, but I'm still haunted...

Let me introduce you to the ghost of unfinished sweaters......
Don't let it's friendly appearance fool you.  It's really a relentless spirit, haunting your dreams and your daylight hours, imploring you to go back to that unfinished project and get it done, keeping you from enjoying any other knitting activity until you get this one done first.

So why is this Ghost-of-sweaters-past haunting me?  The answer is this:


It's the sweater I am knitting for my son.  As you can see, the front and the back are done, and the collar is attached.  The problem is that one shoulder seam looks like this:
BUT, the other shoulder seam look like this:
You see, before I could knit the collar, the pattern called for knitting one of the shoulder seams.  I asked my  lovely knitting sister for some help with that, and she sewed it up for me, using a beautifully done seamless shoulder technique.  Although I watched her do it, I have no idea how to repeat it for the other side.  I've been stuck on this for at least a month while busy schedules and various ills have kept my sister and me from getting together again.

It has sat like this for at least a month now. Meanwhile, the sweater ghost swirls and twirls around me, keeping me from knitting anything else.

So what's a gal to do?  Well, my sister tells me the technique she used is called a "three needle bindoff".  A search of the web turned up a few tutorials on how to do it, and I have decided that it is time to defend myself against the evil knitting spirits and give it a try.

Wish me luck, okay?

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Quilting with a camera

Cameras are a blogger's best friend for documenting the various steps and the finished projects of our quilting endeavors. 

But, aside from the standard uses of taking pictures to share with friends, I have found many other times where having a camera in the quilt room has helped me with the quilting itself.
 
One of the handiest uses of my camera is to take a picture of my blocks when they are arranged the way I want them in the final quilt. The photo(s) serve as a placement diagram while I sew them together.  Here are 20 Monkey Wrench blocks in the order I wanted to sew them together.  Having a photo to refer to as I sewed the rows and columns together helped to keep me from mixing them up.
 
For another example, this "Ring Around" quilt did not have a simple row-by-row assembly.  Marking it with row numbers and column numbers would have been impossible.

I took a photo of the blocks as they were arranged on my living room floor.  Then I drew lines on the photo to show how the quilt could be broken up into quadrants that were easier to sew.

I sewed each quadrant at a time, using the photo as a guide, and then referred to it again to sew the quadrants together.
 
I also use my camera to audition fabrics.  In this example, I was trying to choose a border design.  I took a picture of each possiblity, and then could look at them all together.
 
 
On larger quilts especially, it can be hard to see the overall effect until seen through the eyes of a camera lens.  I wanted to add appliqued flowers to the border of this Pineapple Blossom quilt, but wasn't sure where they should go.  I placed some fabric squares in different areas of the border and took photos of each to decide where I liked them best:
 

 There are also other ways that taking photos of works in progress has helped.  When making a quilt using Granny Square blocks, for example,  I took one photo of the back of a block to remind me which direction I wanted to press the seams. 
 
Since I like to make scrappy quilts, my first decisions are which combination of fabrics will go together in each block. I take a photo of the groups of fabrics after I have chosen them.    At the cutting table, I can rearrange the fabrics to make the cutting easy, knowing that I can refer to my photo put them back into their groups.   For example, these four sets of fabrics

 became these four completed blocks:

 
One last idea I would like to mention is using the camera to take a photo of a quilting technique, such as proper ruler placement of a ruler.
 
I was always the girl who took pictures, even before the digital age of cameras when you had to factor in the price of  the film and the developing costs.  With digital cameras, it is so easy, (and cheap!) to record anything and everything, so I thought I would share these ideas about how I use the camera in the quilt room.
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Lost in Paradise

Is anyone watching "The Paradise" on PBS's Masterpiece Classic?

It's a period drama based on the book by Emile Zola about the people who work at "The Paradise", a large department store that threatens the small businessmen of London.   The heroine of the story is Denise Lovett who travels to London from a small village, hoping to find work with her dressmaker uncle.  Unfortunately her uncle is losing business and cannot afford to offer her a job.

Denise eventually resorts to finding employment in the Ladieswear department at The Paradise.  The series follows her journey as she learns to fit in at the store, and to deal with her fellow employees as she maps out her future.


The cast of characters includes:
  • John Moray, the handsome and charismatic owner of the Paradise, who is still mourning the death of his wife.
  • Katherine Glendenning, the rich society girl who is used to getting her own way and has her eyes set on John Moray.
  • Miss Audrey, the prim and proper spinster who has devoted her life to her work as head of the Ladieswear department.
  • Clara, a shopgirl who sees Denise as her biggest rival.
  • Jonas Frank, the mysterious and menacing head of security.
  • Dudley, Moray's assistant and the peacekeeper.

It took me a couple of episodes to really warm up to the story, perhaps because I thought it was going to be another "Mr. Selfridge", which never really grabbed my interest.  The beautiful settings and costumes were enough to keep me going, and I'm very glad I did.  There are only a couple of new episodes yet to air, but the first ones are available to watch at PBS online, and there is going to be a second season.

If nothing else, it's a very enjoyable show to watch while waiting for Season 4 of "Downton Abbey".

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Everyday things

Gorgeous sunset I saw on the way home tonight.

While driving home I was enjoying this beautiful sunset, and trying to decide whether to pull over and take a photo.  Eventually, I passed a small pond where there was a great spot to pull in, and the reflection on the water made it worth stopping to take a photo.  As I pulled over, another car was already there with the driver standing outside her car taking a photo.  As I was leaving, another car was pulling in and reaching for their camera.  Just too beautiful to pass by.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The stars have it


Veteran's Day was the perfect time to work on a patriotic quilt.  I had the stars all appliqued, but needed to work out how to set them.  The beauty of designing with Electric Quilt software is that it is so easy to make changes and see what they might look like.   My first thought was a straight forward setting, alternating with striped blocks:

I thought that the striped blocks might be too dark, so I lightened them up:

Now the stripes are competing with the stars.  Maybe if I framed the stars to make them stand out?

Better, but omething about the stripes looked unbalanced to me, so I tried a different alternate square:


Almost went with this setting, but I really wanted some stripes.   Maybe all the stripes going in the same direction would make it look more balanced.

One more change, making the stripes less prominent:

At last, I got the setting I had been searching for.  It sort of looked like the framed stars were hanging from striped ribbons.  The stars made from shirt fabrics are highlighted nicely, and I also liked that the stripes look a little like the ribbons you would find on a military uniform.

Here's the resulting quilt top:

You'll have to take my word for it, the red fabric is not that bright.   The actual colors are more like this:

Oh, and if it looks like there are wrinkles in the upper corners, that's because of this:

Can't wait to get this quilted up, and given to my mother-in-law.


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Monday, November 11, 2013

With Gratitude


Thank you to all the people who sacrifice so much to protect our freedom, and also to their families who serve in their own way to support our servicemen and women.
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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dental Delight

Instead of a pumpkin, perhaps Toby should have been a vampire for Halloween.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

Got the Stars, Need the Stripes


I've got seven stars appliqued to backgrounds, and now I need to think about adding some stripes.  I picked out some navy, blue and red fabrics that I though would complement the shirt colors and will experiment with some striped blocks.

Using Electric Quilt software, I have come up with this design:

I'm not yet sure if this will be the final layout, but it's a start.

I must say that I am really glad I chose to hand applique the stars.  As I worked on each one, it gave me a chance to think about Al and remember what a kind and generous man he was.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Through the Window Wednesday


Visitors to the back yard.
 
Growing up as a city girl, I was not used to seeing something like a pair of deer right in my back yard.  Wildlife in the city consisted of pigeons and squirrels. 
 
Now that I've been away from the city for many years, I'm no longer suprised by the visitors to the back yard, but I am still amazed to look out and see a pair of deer, or a flock of turkeys, or these cutie pie rabbits who were in a nest right in the middle of the grass:
 
I'm always torn between running to get the camera, or just enjoying the moment.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Who can resist a dog in a sweater?

My knitting sister, who has two little mini dachshunds, lent me this book:

It's a delightful knitting pattern book with a variety of patterns for both man and dog.  The authors are very serious about creating knitting patterns, but don't take themselves too seriously.  I mean, really, look at the hat on the cover photo!

The book includes other smile-inducing photos such as this cute little pooch admiring his canine couture:

The book also includes patterns for men's sweaters, like this nice geometric design:

The fun thing is that some of the sweaters are made to match the dog's.

How about matching socks for man and beast?

I can't imagine Toby leaving on a pair of socks long enough to even take a picture, but I bet the dog in the photo has nice, warm toes!

I'm not planning on knitting anything for Toby, his double coat of fur keeps him toasty, but it was still fun to flip through this book just to enjoy the pictures.



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Monday, November 4, 2013

Are the Stars out tonight?

Here are the first five stars for my memory quilt, basted and ready for applique:

I will be hand appliqueing the stars to background squares, and the method I prefer is to hand baste each piece to freeze paper first.  That way, I can work out and secure all the seam allowances with the basting stitches, and then the actual applique is a breeze.

Each point of the star takes a bit of coaxing to make a nice point, so it has taken me a while just to do five stars.  Here's what they look like on the back:

I'm happy with the way the fabrics have behaved so far, even the blue seersucker.  The edges are a  little bumpy, but it passes inspection..

In the photos, the stars are just sitting on a background fabric that I am planning to use, but I'm not quite sure if the narrow stripe in the background will compete with the stripes in the shirts.  I'm just making this up as I go along, letting the fabrics tell me what to do....

While I'm on the subject of stars,  have you heard about the astronaut who has been quilting on the space shuttle?  NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg has spent the last 5 months on the International Space Station, and she has brought her quilting supplies with her.  There's an interesting video showing Karen in space, explaining the difficulties of quilting in zero gravity.    You can watch it  here.

All this talk of stars has reminded me that tonight is Dancing With the Stars on TV.  I'm off to watch and maybe baste some more stars of my own.

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