Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stuck at home...

Archive Fibre Week photo 2007 - Felting by Foot

Today is an unusual "Judi Day." It is my day off and instead of going on a road trip or some other whimsical fanciful spontaneous adventure, I'm stuck cocooning at home. I have 2 plumbers downstairs jackhammering the concrete floor to bits. They are fixing a pipe which has collapsed. It's a big honking old thing which apparently they don't even make anymore (just in case ya wanted ta know).

I'm also waiting for 10 books (Icelandic Fleece - a Fibre for all Reasons) to arrive so I can get them up to Fibre Week tomorrow. ( I'm so desperate to get my books that I ran out the bread store yesterday to accost a postal guy in his truck just to ensure he wasn't going to my house next).

So what does one do when they're tied to their house for the day?
  • I could clean the house - but there's no available water for the next 3 hours - yippee!
  • I could do some sewing but all my stuff is set up downstairs and I'm just too lazy to haul it upstairs (because that would entail putting away all the stuff currently piled on the kitchen table from 5 days at Fibre Week, which I plunked there and announced "I'm beat!" and popped a beer).
  • I could actually start unpacking - but it's far too early for that. I generally don't unpack for a good couple days after a trip. I like to lay a little "I haven't made up my mind if I'm staying yet" fear into the troops.
  • I could kick back and watch TV - but I'm a bit of a "silence is golden" freak in the morning.
So I think I'll just work on a few things that I've been putting off. Things like:
  • Figuring out how Picasa works and deciding if I really wanna go down that road. I already have Flickr but can't get the hang of all the sets and groups and tags and bla bla bla.
  • Cleaning out my Inbox, Outbox, Delete box, and Spam box.
  • Downloading my pics from Fibre Week and writing up some stuff for the blog (it was a great week).
  • Checking out metronome apps for android (I'll tell you more about that later). 
So... I guess I'm having a technology day - not sure if that's a yip or a yuck.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dealing with pressure...

This upcoming week is going to be a busy one for me. I have alot of projects requiring my attention and they are all time sensitive. And of course it's all self inflicted. This is where I should have kept my big fat mouth shut... but instead I said " I'll do that..."  or "No problem, I can look into that" or "Hey wouldn't it be great if...."

And the "To Do List" just keeps growing.

And worst of all - the way I deal with pressure (or stress) is avoidance. Hence the whole revamping of my new blog(s) this week. Granted, I'm very pleased with them. And yes, in the long run I can buy 2 more lattes per month, or 2 fat quarters, or 1 ball of yarn with all that "extra dough" I'll be saving someday in the future - when I actually close down my other account.

But... in the meantime - it's Father's Day. The Old Guy (who really keeps the whole place running) will have supper prepared by Youngman 1. Youngman 2 will hopefully be home from a road trip. And me? Initially I said I'd make an Apple Pie - from scratch. Then I modified the plan to read  Apple Crisp (no crust to fiddle with). I keep telling him "I'm making this from scratch you know." But as the clock ticks nearer to dinner my mind wanders.

Do they sell Apple Crisp in a Can?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Moving on over....

So - sheepless (which is moi) has decided (after much deliberation) to move to blogger. When I first started blogging - back in the old days (2004) I started on blogspot. But then I wanted something else (not sure what) and moved to Typepad - which I've been very happy with overall (over the years). But... I have to pay for that service. And I didn't mind when I was emoting ad nausea - but I don't seem to say much these days.

But moving is difficult! Especially when I have 6 years worth of "heavy thinking" invested over there ie: "Life is a Fridge Magnet".

I've spent alot of time redesigning the old blog over the years. I pay extra to have the little perks of building my own "themes". But most recently when I had to upgrade one more time to move my banner to the centre of the page... (which I did momentarily) - and spent an entire morning trying to figure out the CSS or CCS HTML custom editing doohickey - I still couldn't move the $#&* thing.

And that's ... when I moseyed on over here. So we'll see how it goes. I have lots of myself over there but I'll slowly copy it. Some of it's worth saving - and some of it ... not so much.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stuck in a love - hate relationship...

Meet Sally - aka Mustang Sally aka Pawnshop Sally aka that #*!!* Sally. Many of you have already met her on my other blog here.
Sally and I are having a tumultuous relationship. It seems that everytime I think "okay today's the day I get sewing!" Sally thinks "Maybe if I hide in the back under the stash, she'll decide to knit instead..."
And if I insist that no this is indeed a sewing day (as in I pull out the cutting board, iron, pressing board, assorted cutting implements, patterns and fabrics) Sally pulls her trump card... and breaks down.
Now - let me be perfectly clear - I am not blaming the Bernina people who built this machine. Each time a switch pops off, or an internal whatchamadooey blows I have to remind myself - that this is a machine with a sketchy past. The machine that may have been gutted for parts. The machine that sat for months admist dusty pawned electric guitars and snowboards and TV monitors. Memories of "The Brave Little Toaster" movie have haunted me...

Really - what could I do???? Someone just had to step in. The only thing both the clerk and I agreed on was "yes the light bulb works" and "yes the needle goes up and down". Both good signs in my book (I was so naive back then).
But back to the matter at hand. Last week after seriously considering selling her (her photo appeared on kijiji briefly until I had a panic attack) Sally broke down again - this time she blew her power board. She has really thrown me for a loop this time.  "Is there no depth so low that you won't stoop to avoid sewing???" Apparently not. Needless to say she has rubbed my face in it. She's back at the shop sulking while I pretend I may not bail her out this time. I've had a serious conversation with the tech about when euthanasia is appropriate. If she doesn't get her act together she's on borrowed time. In the meantime I have signed up for "Mastering Your Bernina" classes... also known as "How to be the Alpha Dog" in sewing machine land...
Sally be forwarned - I'm tired of riding in the B*tch seat.

And I stitch...

So, despite the fact that I do have 2 sewing machines (3 if you count an old White "Jeans Machine" that lives in the bowels of the basement with the other relics of ventures past) I have been drawn to the pursuit of mastering some form of "elegant accomplishment" (which after a brief googling of the term I have discerned to mean dancing, needlework, drawing and music).

 And so I am hand sewing my pieces together.  I am using Jinny Beyer's book Quiltmaking By Hand. It's a terrific book that helps the complete needle newbie get started. Everything from thimbles, thread weight, needle types and sizes, to cutting techniques, templates, and of course the "simple running stitch" is reviewed. I always enjoy reading books that include a bit of history or trivia about a technique or practice of the time. It amazes me that there can be such strongly held views about the proper way to hold a needle, or mark a seam. Having said that I do understand having preferences. And I'm probably developing all sorts of suboptimal habits already - but the practice of elegant accomplishment usually began when girls were 4 and 5 years old. Having said that I am an ancient knitter and only recently switched to "continental style" technique because it made more sense to me. So what does all this blathering mean? Only that it is never to late to teach an old broad a new trick...

I had read somewhere that using painter's tape (which is sticky but peels off easily, is a good alternative to marking 1/4 inch seam lines.  I also read online another person who suggested placing the tape on your thumbnail instead of the fabric and using this as your marking tool.

I'm working diligently to make my stitches small and uniform. The book says to always do a backstitch every 4 - 5 stitches to anchor the row.The blue painter's tape is working out very well - it sticks when I need it to and peels off easily without leaving a residue. It's not fraying the fabric edges.

I can readily see a number of benefits with stitching by hand. For starters, I have much more control over my joins where several seams are butting up against each other. I am also able to store my block in progress, needles, thread and scissors in a little box and keep it handy - I've been sewing in the evening while I watch drivel on TV (I am addicted to competitive Reality TV shows such as Chopped, Top Chef, Project Runway, Amazing Race and yes I still watch Survivor!)
Me: So ... what did you do last night?
Colleague: Oh I flopped out on the couch. How about you?
Me: Oh Me? (smugly) I worked on my elegant accomplishments.
Happy quilting!

A big surprise!


I have to confess that it did require a wee bit of liquid courage to pull out the rotary cutter and start whacking through my fabric. After months of selecting, sorting, washing, starching, pressing, culling, revising, and just delighting in these lovely little bits of pink cloth, I finally had to just "get it done". One of my Sunday morning walking buddy's had laid down the proverbial gauntlet, that fabric would indeed be cut - within 24 hours.
Under the template is 20 layers of fabric - all in a variety of pink hues - randomly alternating from dark, light to medium

... and so I did. After cutting, I was to remove the top fabric "ribbon" layer which was under the freezer paper. After that each "block" would "miraculously" appear. It was a delightful surpise! As you can see into the pictures below The "ribbon" fabric from block A (below) becomes the background fabric in block B.

When the A-B block is removed  - the B - C block is revealed.

 When the B-C block is removed, the C-D block is revealed...

 And so on...

And so on...

And so on.

Until, finally 20 unique blocks have been created.  And none of them required a hands on design plan - they just revealed themselves as each layer was peeled back - it was a thrill! It was liberating!
And as a bonus, a little packet of strips and fluff... just to enjoy.

The Hope Quilt - in process...

So I decided to finally crack open the  "Crazy Old Ladies" Hope Quilt pattern that I bought last year. I was drawn to the pattern for a number of reasons. A. I like pink and B. I thought it would be a nice way to commemorate my first Weekend to End Women's Cancers 60 kilometre walk, which I did last year.
When I bought the pattern I thought it was applique - but now I see it's a "crazy pieced" stack and whack pattern. I'm not exactly sure what "crazy piecing" means - except that each piece of the ribbon block is oddly shaped (see below). When they are pieced together they will make the ribbon block.

... but first - let's look at colour!

Getting all the pinks figured out was an adventure. The pattern calls for 10 pink fat quarters in varying contrasts of light, medium and dark. I bought several bits that I thought were great but when they were up on the design call - they just didn't cut the mustard. Some pinks had purple undertones, and others were brownish. Various shades, hues and designs were shuffled around the wall for a good couple of months. ( I have to admit I delight in just looking at the fabric - actually doing something with it sometimes seems optional).

I found my camera to be a wonderful tool and took tons of photos. Each colour combo was catalogued, copied and then made into a black & white to see if there was enough contrast.


Well that's it for the "... in process" post for today. Sew happy!    

Just Do It II

My mom has done it again. While I continue to endlessly move fabric around the design board - mom continues to "Just Do It". She is now hand sewing and hand quilting potholders from fabric in her stash.

... and because it's my birthday, I get to pick two!

Thanks Mom !

First Quilt is "finito!"

Well I am happy to announce, that after much humming, hawing, foot shuffling, room rearranging and excuses (let's face it I am a procrastinating aficionado) I have finished my first quilt. Which I started here.
In retrospect, I am feeling quite "sheepish" (ha! ha!) in that it took me so long to finish up - when all that was required was indeed "finishing up". As you may recall I was having problems with my machine during my class - first the tension was screwy - and I had forgot my sewing manual (which is a voluminous text which I have printed off the internet). I had to go home to retrieve it. By the time I returned to class, the instructor had solved the problem and I was now an hour behind. On Day 2 I raced to catch up and just as I approached the homestretch (binding 101) I had another machine malfunction and ... just... threw in the towel. I packed up my stuff and went home.
My instructor emailed and said to bring the quilt and binding in and she would show me how... I was soooo close!
Put you know how it goes. I went to hand quilting classes, and hand applique classes. I bought needles, and threads, and of course more fabric. I put up a design board. I bought books and magazines and DVDs. I bought another old sewing machine. I rearranged my room... one  more   time.
I got so desperate I even decided to clean out the Inbox on my email. And then I found it...

"....  August 25th, 2010: Here is a picture of you and your lovely quilt, don’t forget to come and see me as needed to finish up!"

And so on January 3rd 2011 - I did. And it was easy. And quick. And I was embarrassed that I had put it off for so long. I hand stitched the binding to the backing... and I learned on more thing.

I like sewing by hand.

 (Ps . I am late posting this because I wanted to have my "Made by Me - Label" on it. Haven't quite figured that out yet).


With the weather changing I'm anticipating more time spent indoors, listening to the radio, watching Corrie Street and The Young & the Restless (my guilty pleasures). I usually have a knitting or spinning project on the go, but this winter I've decided to broaden my horizons and look at hand quilting. I signed up for a mini class at Traditional Pastimes and I was off and running.


I chose to use a high contrast thread for my first project so I could easily see my stitches, as consistency is a goal. In this case we were advised to aim for a consistent stitch length - increasing our "stitch per inch" would come eventually. We lightly pencil traced our pattern on white cotton muslin, pinned our three layers (muslin / batting / muslin) and loosely sandwiched everything into our hoops.


I'm a bit of a gadget freak, so hearing that there are lots of bits like "betweens" (special needles for quilting) various hand quilting threads, and thimbles galore! I was in heaven. Above are 2 betweens. They are 2 different brands. One bent quite quickly as I was struggling with my "rocking needle technique." Thankfully needles are relatively inexpensive - so if you buy a size or brand that isn't working for you, you haven't made a huge investment. I've tried 3 brands thus far and discovered one bends quickly, another works great but literally snaps in half - and the last ones seems to be holding up great, but I had to move to an even shorter needle to easily advance it through the layers but the trade off is less stitch loading. All so very interesting to a newbie like myself.There are lots of examples of "rocking needle technique" on the internet - and You Tube is a goldmine. Below is a short 2 minute video which demonstrates the technique about 1 minute in... be patient now! I also love the whole community aspect of this clip.


I also have a DVD called That Perfect Stitch by Dierdra McElroy. Everything from needles, batting, fabrics, hoops, frames, threads and thimble styles are reviewed. The author also shares with the consumer her ratings of numerous brands - which I found helpful. Even the pre-wash fabric topic is discussed. There is also an extensive chapter on the hand quilting technique itself -from threading your needle, securing the knot, various rocking the needle techniques and ergonomic considerations to prevent repetitive strain injuries.


A nice thing about hand quilting is that it is absolutely silent. I can easily listen to podcasts and have a few Audiobooks waiting on my Ipod. (I think my consistency is improving here!) Not only can I can hear the content - but I almost feel like my comprehension of the content is improving. Needle in... needle out. Needle in... needle out. A rather unique experience for me is that ... I seem to be speaking less and (heaven forbid) listening more!


3/4 inch masking tape is used to mark our lattice style background pattern.

I have discovered another big plus for handquilting is that it is very much like hand spindling. It can be a portable easy pick up - put down endeavour. Because of this, I suspect that hand quilting (like spindling) could considered "slower by the minute - quicker by the week."  You can sit in your favourite comfy couch, with your favorite tea in your favorite mug at your side,  your favorite pooch at your feet (I guess your spouse will do to...)

Well that's my "in process" blog for today - I'll keep you posted!

And then some "Just Do It"...

So while I've been drivelling on about cleaning up my room, and ruminating the pros and cons of "to wash or not to wash" ... some people are indeed just doing it.
Case in point.
While I moved furniture in and out (and round and round) - my mother gathered her scraps.
While I surfed the net for used machines, patterns, classes, photos (and let's face it when you are on surf mode eventually all roads lead to Farmville) my mother picked out blocks from a sampler book.
While I endlessly moved squares around on my *new* design wall - my mother measured, cut and began to sew.
While I signed up for a hand quilting class ... and acquired my hoop, my "betweens" and my hand quilting thread - my mother decided to just "do it". No special needle. No hoop. No lessons.
Needle in. Needle out.
And where are we now?
My mother has a beautiful quilt for a grandchild. And me? I have 63 more rows of virtual land to hoe - plus the crows are eating my neighbour's corn!

Mom's quilt

In Process...

My last (first) quilt has been languishing as I wait to get back over to the quilt shop and learn how to do my binding.

In the meantime, I've been reclaiming my sewing space. I've thrown up a temporary design wall and have been playing with some 4" x4" blocks that I bought on ebay as part of another quilt-y purchase some months ago. I have to admit I enjoy playing with blocks. But I am finding myself overwhelmed with all the colour possibilties (I'd like to think this is a newbie thing - but I think perhaps not?)

When I just can't take anymore square shifting I wash fabric. I have decided I am in the pre - wash fabric camp. I have read both the pros and cons (to wash or not to wash) and colour bleeding and shrinkage concerns aside - I have decided that I just "like" the handle of fabric that's washed. It feels denser. "Livelier". (Much like handspun yarn feels in comparison to most mass market yarn). I understand there are occasions when you may not want to  pre-wash - and I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

And there you have it... I was wash ... I fold ... I contemplate. In process.

Creative Stitches 2010

One of the best things about being a newbie to a new craft adventure, is that everything is exactly that... new!
And where better to go than the Creative Stitches show?
I have been to this show in the past, but I wasn't quilting yet - so it was all lost on me. But yesterday it was all different!

All the one hour classes are first come - come served and free! I didn't have a clue what to take - so I took sessions that used clue words such as "straight forward" "simple" "beginner" and "tricks of the trade" - right up my alley.
I went with the intention of buying fabric - and came home with fabric... and more! I am learning that rulers are to quilters what needles are to knitters.
My first session was One Block Wonder & More - with Carol Wasylik of Extraordinary Extras - this class showed the basic how to's of making a hexagonal kaleidoscope quilt using a fabric that has at least 3 primary colours. What amazed me was how a fabric that all agreed had a "sub optimal" appearance - was transformed to stunning with cutting, rearranging and straight stitch sewing. The quilts looked very complex, but once you understood the process ... note to self : look for butt ugly fabric! The book recommended for this technique : One Block Wonder - Encore!
Session Two: Rulers Rule  - with Veronica Longmuir of Veronica's Sewing Supplies. Veronica's enthusiasm and good humour was infectious as she showed us a non stop mini trunk show of ideas, tips, tricks and tools. It is small wonder her vendor booth was packed for most the the day, as shoppers looked for recommended tools and books. One book she recommended was Day and Night Quilt by Eleanor Burns - which discusses strip cutting and manipulation techniques to create a complex looking design (purple quilt bottom photo).

My third session was X-Blocks Templates with Arlyce Thompson of Quilters Haven. I went to this class to learn about templates. Thus far I have only learned how to assemble one block - nine patch, and this class was about using templates to re-cut simple blocks and strips at angles and playing with colour and design to reassemble. The recommended reading for this class: Once upon a time in X blocks Land by Patricia Pepe.
So - how was that for a super day? I learned lot's - got a whole new appreciation for quilting and quilter's and I'm just itchin' to get stitchin'...
...News flash! While I was indulging myself at the Stitches show - the carpeting downstairs was finally installed. That means the sheepless household living space is back to normal - and Youngman II can vacate my sewing room and return to his man-cave... I should be back on my quilting adventure shortly!

A Really Good Quilting Book?

So obviously, I'm hardly in a position to start recommending books... after all I still don't have one absolutely "all done" quilt under my belt yet. But I do love to have all sorts of books at hand when preparing for a journey. I have stacks of weaving, spinning and knitting books and magazines. Scouting out book treasures at second hand stores is a favorite pastime - and evey once in a while I find a gem. There are an amazing number of quilting books in secondhand stores! At this point since I know so little about quilting, my skull is like a big empty pit waiting for ingredients to get thrown in, stirred up and start simmering. Like spinning, weaving and knitting, quilting appears to have it's controversies, leaders and ... are there quilting heretics? In knitting circles Anna Zilboorg wrote and excellent book Knitting for Anarchists. It is about freeing oneself from "the tyranny of patterns". I had been knitting for a long time before I read this book. It answered alot of technical questions I had - and I was stunned just "how much sense" it all made. After a lifetime of "English knitting" I  converted to "continental style". I confess that although continental knitting is considered a faster type of knitting - I am not that fast. But I love the "economy of the stitch" and since knitting is yet another "love of process" craft for me - I'm in it for the process - not the end product.  It's also great for fair isle knitting which I enjoy immensely - but I digress...
(Above: Library Quilt by Winnowing Designs).
Back to quilting...
I have been scouring second hand stores for "how to" quilt books. I think I have found a keeper!

The Art of Classic Quiltmaking by Harriet Hargrave and Sharyn Craig covers alot of ground. It talks about setting up your space, tools of the trade, lighting, and techniques. Because it is coauthored by two quiltmakers who have differing opinions about ways to approach a technique or solve a particular problem, they have "agreed to disagree."  Offering both their experiences and rationale for why they do something a particular way, leaves it to the reader to read, weigh out the pros and cons and decide how they want to proceed - I think this is a good way to build a skill base. Step up! If it doesn't work - step back-review and re-approach. Isn't that what learning is all about? What process is about? It seems somewhat calamitous to embark on a journey without a clue of where you are going, only to arrive "somewhere" "by accident" with no idea how to get there again if it's great... and if it sucks? Wouldn't you like to know where you screwed up?
There is a good deal of information about fabric. To prewash or not. What to wash with. Colour choices, patterns, selecting a palette (ugh! this can be the bane of many a fibre artist - irregardless of their medium).
Building your stash - I admit I really perked up here! No matter what the medium, I am a great builder of stash. Granted every few years I need to thin out my stash, but this is where I think quilting and I will get along splendidly.I think it will be different from my other stash relationships.
For example...
Knitting - Buying miscellaneous balls of yarn (usually a one ball left sale) has resulted in many boxes of stash - with no plan. Never enough to make anything substantial. I can only knit so many scarves - and a good deal of what I've purchased is not scarf appropriate... I have enough to knit about 35 sweater arms - as long as they can be different colours, weights and fibre content. How about a cashmere dishcloth?
Spinning - I am a 50 gram baggie addict. Which has resulted in a few buckets full of wonderful 50 gram skeins of handspun yarn... but again not enough to make something...
Weaving - well what can I say. I wove some really great tea towels. I love them. But I really don't (plug your ears, cover your eyes) like weaving. Sad but true. I wish I did. I like planning weaving. I like wrapping warps... but when it comes down to throwing the shuttle... well not so much.
So anyways - here I am back to the book. There are lots of pictures. Great traditional quilts. I'm surprised how much I am enjoying them. The colours, the pattern within patterns. Looking for nine patch squares inside other squares.(which is all I know at the moment). I never thought of myself as a "traditional kinda gal" but at this point I'm just along for the ride, and open to everything.
Wow! I've written alot this morning. If you managed to actually get to the end - congratulations! You deserve a big fat quarter!

My first Quilt...

My Quilting 101 class at Freckles Quilt Shop was excellent. I almost finished up the whole quilt that weekend (topper, backing, quilting and binding) and was going gangbusters until Sally's stitch length knob fell off (may I say UGH???). But thankfully two days later we were up and stitching again.

 Getting ready for my first cut. I've never cut with a rotary cutter before so I was a bit anxious about cutting off and finger and bleeding all over my freshly hand washed fabric. We were asked to pre-wash our fabric before class. Apparently every textile endeavour has it's central points of controversy. In quilting - one of them is the perennial "to pre-wash or not to pre-wash" debate. I have already started reading up on the pros and cons. From my vast experience of one quilt and prewashing the fabric - I can see a few benefits. For example - both the chocolate and turquoise fabrics did bleed (especially the chocolate) and I had to set them both with a vinegar-water rinse. I can see if they were against a light coloured fabric - having them bleed later would have a very disappointing. Plus there's the shrinkage factor - apparently not all fabrics shrink at the same rate.  But - some quilters like the  puckering effect that occurs in washing the quilt after it is complete. And  - fabrics are treated with all sorts of stuff to keep them in good shape while they are stored, transported and restocked at the fabric shop and stashed in yours!


I learned the importance of sewing 1/4" seams - consistently. I was surprised how difficult that actually was. I strayed occcasionally and like much of my knitting efforts found I had to rip-it, rip-it, rip-it.

Apparently these little squares (above) are called "nine patch".  And voila! This (below) is my single irsh chain "topper" (are you impressed with all my new found techno babble?  It's like talking warp and weft / or worsted  and woolen - once you learn a few bits - you're on your way baby!)


The yellow check fabric is my backing - and before I know it... I'm quilting!
(Stay tuned for more....)

What type of quilter are you? And opening the box ...

Recently I've become a dedicated "Sewcialite" at my LQS. We meet every Monday and work on our projects. Some of us are prolifi...