Friday, 30 November 2007

It's a Mystery

Last Sunday night I took part in the Planet Patchwork #125 Mystery Quilt, which started at 11:00 am EST which was 4 pm for me. I quite enjoyed this on the day, but to be perfectly honest I am completely fed up with the thing now as I struggle to finish it using flawed instructions.

On Sunday night, I was all set up with my main computer downstairs set up with the instruction page, to print off each instalment as it was published hourly, and a laptop upstairs which had the Mystery Quilt chat room logged in next to my sewing machine. It was quite enjoyable to be sewing and pressing, with dozens of other quilters logged in and chatting in the room under the tutelege of 'Merry Mayhem', the persona of Planet Patchwork. There were a few problems with spammers logging in, and the organisers said they had no way of kicking them, but luckily they left after a few minutes. The cutting instructions had been issued beforehand, so we could get stuck right into the sewing. The printed instructions appeared very professional, with clearly labelled diagrams.

The sewing itself was simple, making four patches for the most part. But errors began to reveal themselves. The first error wasn't a problem, an instruction to cut segments which needed more fabric than had been seamed into strips, but of course it caused multiple confusion as each quilter came to that step in their own time, then posted on the chatroom to ask about. Luckily we had extra fabric to compensate (in fact, I think the cutting instructions called for too many strips, as I have some left over). The next error was a bit more annoying, in Step 7, when some pre-pieced four-patches turned out to have the wrong colouring. As this only became apparent when the Step 7 borders were seamed on, it meant some unpicking and re-ordering the checkerboard, then re-seaming. This was now after 9 pm for me so I stopped at that point and only printed off the final instructions for Step 8.

This week I have been assembling the Step 8 borders when I get a chance, and today I tried to sew them on. It became immediately apparent that there must be errors in those instructions as well, and sure enough, when I checked the 'corrected' version on the Planet Patchwork website, the Step 8 instructions were now different. So more unpicking, and re-ordering of checkerboards, and re-sewing. Then I thought I was finally finished, but as I pressed out the final two borders, I see that two of the dark checks are next to each other on two corners. I'm pretty sure I have done these according to the 'corrected' instructions, so now I think they are wrong as well. I can't face more unpicking (and we are talking about a yard on both edges) so I just hung it up and took a pic. I have gotten a headache trying to figure out what they mean when they say 'top border' or 'left border' because the middle of the quilt has no obvious orientation and there is no picture of the overall finished quilt in either of the instructions, so it has all turned into a bit of a guessing game as to what the designer intended. And I don't want to play anymore. They are doing another Mystery Quilt on New Year's Day but I think I might pass. You can see pictures of some of the other quilts people made on the website.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Busy weekend

I'm taking a break from the Planet Patchwork online mystery quilt (just finished step 2, waiting for step 3 to be posted) so I thought I would catch you up on my busy weekend.

First of all, I finished my other Ridged Feather pattern sock - and here is a pic with one of our cats, Colin, inspecting the handiwork. Being jet black, he doesn't photograph very well.

Second, Saturday was my sewing club day. I didn't get as much done as I had optimistically expected - by the time I make the announcements, hand out the instructions for our new group project (I've designed a sampler quilt in EQ6 to do as a block of the month), collected the dues (a share of the hall rental money) and made the first cup of tea (yes, I am a dogsbody), there is only about 90 minutes until lunch time. But I did get the borders on my vintage Lone Star. There is such a big difference between the poor waif that I bought from a dealer in Paducah, and its new incarnation with the star points adjusted, and reset into a blue background, and a border added.

I took my batik Easy Curves top for show & tell and because I thought I might get the borders on, and before I'd even finished it, it had sold. One of the other ladies wanted it for her granddaughter because she said it was all her favourite colours. I didn't have any special plans for it so I named a price which would cover the cost of the fabric (but still pretty pricey by low UK standards for buying handicraft). The lady blanched a bit, but agreed. I felt a bit guilty so I threw in some binding and backing as well. I sewed on the borders when I got home, and we dropped it round to her house this morning. She's going to do the quilting herself. I think this must be a record for the shortest time I've owned a quilt that I made, lol.

By coincidence, this was the same lady who was making my tablerunner from our earlier Brown Bag challenge (the one that had a deadline in September...) and she had finished it. It is an unusual block, and of course I love the fabrics that I gave her, so it will look nice on our table. It's nice to get it back finally and close off that chapter.

So I took the money she gave me on our outing to Eltham Palace, an English Heritage property on the other side of London. They were supposed to be having a craft fair, but we found out when we got there that it had been cancelled. We still went in and toured the house, a former Tudor palace which was converted in the 1920s into an Art Deco mansion for the wealthy Courtauld family, and had lunch in the tearoom, and a lovely walk in the autumn sunshine in the garden. On the way there and back, I started my new socks: the Cross Hatch Lace pattern from 'More Sensational Socks', using Lorna's Hand-Dyed Shepherd sock yarn in 'Wisteria' colourway that was part of my sock yarn haul from Alexander Palace show. The colours are just gorgeous, although they aren't striping like I thought, the sock is more blue on one side and more purple than the other. This picture shows my ribbing and the first repeat of the lace pattern.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Completed 'Suzy' cardigan

I've finished my Rowan Big Wool 'Suzy' cardigan, knit in colourway 'Rascal' on 15mm giant needles. I finished sewing it up yesterday and put the buttons on last night, and wore it to a funeral today (dh's aunt-by-marriage). It looks quite smart with navy blue trousers, I think enough to wear to work (it is quite cold at work because they are rebuilding our office building and we don't have central heating anymore). The shaping at the waist gives it a good silhouette despite the bulky yarn, and it fits pretty well apart from the sleeves are a bit too long. This is the medium size. Knitting with this really big wool produces really quick results, but any untidy stitch or error is also magnified so you have to be really careful about tidy edge stitches and how you do your increases/decreases.

I've got three quilts ready to put borders on, at my upcoming Saturday sewing club, although I don't know if I will get them all done. They are the vintage Lone Star [that screech you just heard is Swooze shouting 'about time!'], the second Baltimore Album (made with the leftover blocks from my duvet cover), and my batik Easy Curves twin size. I've also been cutting out for a Vintage Log Cabin with 1-inch blocks, using a fabric kit that I bought at the Stitching Post in July. I'm using the Marti Michell Log Cabin Ruler which I have to say is rather helpful. Normally I do not go in for speciality rulers, when they are for things that I could do with just my normal 6x24 ruler. And yes, I could cut the Log Cabin strips with the 6x24 ruler, but the Log Cabin Ruler is pre-marked specifically for the strip sizes I need, which makes it a lot quicker as there is no hesitation to find the right mark. But it is a lot of cutting, there are 36 fabrics, to make 36 blocks, and 6 x 1.5 inch strips from each fabric to be cut up into 'logs'.

I have also picked fabrics from my stash because I am toying with the idea of joining in with the Planet Patchwork online mystery quilt this weekend (starts 11:00 EST on Sunday). I haven't cut them yet, but I think I will do that even though it starts at 4 pm for me, so I may still be sewing past bedtime. I am a bit ambivalent because I've done mystery quilts before and never been happy with the end result. Once the quilt is done I always wish that I had used different fabrics.
I've had the results of my biopsy, and the skin cancer is confirmed (for those who missed my previous post, it is the non-spreading kind of skin cancer) so now I am waiting to hear from the plastic surgeon.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Miss Lydia Pickett - Coop Cupboard and Wardian Case

This is actually two months at the same time from my Miss Lydia Pickett club which I am doing in half-inch scale from 'In Some Small Way'. I have found in the past that it makes sense to do two months at once, because many of the steps are similar and you can do all the painting, or all the sanding at one go.

For some reason, maybe I am in a slump, I found both of these kits more challenging than the ones I have done previously. I also am not very pleased with the paint finish. On the previous kits I have always sprayed with white auto primer first, before painting in acrylic, and I think that smoothed out the wood grain much more and gave a good base for paint. These kits have acrylic inserts that go in during construction, so I couldn't spray. The resulting finish is very grainy. I also had tremendous problems trying not to get glue or paint onto the acrylic, particularly in the Wardian Case.

The Wardian case went together fine, although the instructions were a bit confusing as they are written for 1 inch scale which has slightly different components than the half-inch kit. My roof ended up slightly crooked as the acrylic insert is very unforgiving - if you get it slightly out of line, the roof won't glue on straight. I wanted to 'fill' the inside with some soil and greenery, which despite my best efforts ended up sticking to the glass several times so I ended up wiping it away with damp cotton buds etc. I found the 'Grow' carving hard to paint also, it is so shallow that it is easy to obliterate it with paint even when you are trying for a light touch.

The Coop cupboard has a multi layer sandwich construction for the walls and doors, with the acrylic insert sandwiched between the frame and the trim. So you have to do a lot of painting ahead of time before assembly, because you can see the inside of the trim from the inside of the 'glass'. The doors are hinged with wire pins. Two things to learn from my mistakes: the sides of the cupboard should be mirror images of each other (the wide leg goes to the back) so don't just assume the 'good' side of the wood should be up on both pieces. Also, the door trim on the front side of both doors has to exactly line up on both pieces, so that your handle holes are in line with each other. I decided not to try adding the 'chicken wire' effect to the glass.

I think these kits are ingenious, giving a very 3-d result for a laser cut kit, but I am not so pleased with my end product on either kit. Definitely more challenging than the bedroom set, or the desk or day bed.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tackling the deadlines

My last post attracted more comments (7) than I have ever had! Thank you everybody. Obviously, all that I had to do to attract your attention was to pick a really hard project, moan about it copiously for several posts, and then announce it was finished and post an eye-candy photo. :) Watch this space for my knitted shed cosy... (just kidding).

I posted the Paducah quilt today, and received quite a shock when the post office told me that their fastest service (3 days) would cost over $110!!!! I am using the exact same packaging that my long-arm quilter paid $45 for two-day service US to UK. I gulped and asked what was the next cheapest (5 days for over $90) and then the next and final price which was $70 for 15 days. Obviously I went with the 15 days, grudgingly and asking plaintively why the Americans seem to be able to offer a better service for half the price. I just hope the quilt doesn't get all wrinkled in the box for that long, I thought it would only be in it for a few days.

Anyway, now that it is finally gone, I can turn my attention to some of the other deadlines awaiting me, and then I can actually do something for fun!

This is the knitting bag that my work colleague commissioned me to make as a xmas present for her mother after seeing my one. The instructions are in a previous post here. I made the frill deeper on this one which I think looks better.

I have also made twelve 144th scale coffee tables with flower arrangements on them, for a swap on Micro Minis. I am finding it harder to see things this size clearly without good daylight coming in the window, which is in short supply at this time of year - I think I am going to put an Ott light on my xmas prezzie list.

Then I could have some fun, and I made this batik handbag using a pattern I bought at Malvern back in May. The pattern is called 'Hannah's Bag' from and came with the handles. I have to say that it is not very well written, it is quite hard to figure out what they mean in a few places, and some measurements are not given so you have to guess, but the bag turned out pretty well. The drawstring closure means you can actually use it as a handbag rather than just a tote. The batiks are from a bunch I bought as remnants at Hancock's of Paducah in 2005. The handle came with the pattern. You can't see in this photo, but I free-motion quilted leaves in variegated thread across the pieces.

I also knit this tiny sweater christmas decoration, using some of my leftover sock yarn. It is from a book called 'Miniature Sweaters' by Betty Lampen which I bought in San Francisco at the Imagiknit knitting shop. ISBN-0-9634890-0-3. I adapted the instructions to knit it in the round but it was a bit fiddly so I think the next one I will just knit flat. It would be kind of neat to knit a little sweater from each sock yarn that I use.

On Saturday I went to the first UK Stitch 'n Bitch Day up in London, with Debbie Stoller of Stitch 'n Bitch fame as the main attraction. To my surprise, I actually got a place on her limited numbers workshop - the organisers said that attendance would be by lottery but on the day it was the first 30 people to sign up. She showed us how to do double sided knitting, using a scarf from her latest book 'Son of Stitch 'n Bitch' as a sample pattern, and she even picked me out of the crowd to stand up with her for a quick roleplay (I was 'Miss Red' for anyone who attended the same workshop!). So that was my unexpected brush with a famous person for this weekend. I found the technique difficult, you have to bring both yarns to the front for the purl, and move them to the back for the knit stitch, and the two-handed technique I settled upon at my Fair Isle workshop just wouldn't cut it. I had to revert to holding both yarns in my left hand and laboriously picking up the colour I needed. Debbie did what she called 'pit knitting' - she stuck one needle under her left armpit, leaving her left hand free to dance around the needle with both colours so fast that you almost couldn't see the stitches forming. And she was talking at the same time. Still, the woman next to me didn't know how to cast on, so I didn't feel I was the complete dunce of the class, lol. I didn't buy anything, although there were traders there, and I enjoyed knitting some more on my sock in the knitting lounge where the entertainment was going on.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Finished at last

I put the last stitch in on the binding for the Paducah quilt today. (Thank god.) I've just got to sew the label on and do my best handwriting on the entry form, then I can post the whole thing back to the quilter and get back to my normal life. I don't have anywhere big enough to hang it up flat (and I do not dare let it touch any horizontal surfaces in this house) so I could only take a picture of it gathered on to my hanging stairwell display rod.

You can see Dinah Miller's quilting better in this pic. The design is by Beth Ferrier and was offered by her as a free internet pattern some years ago.

I made the label using EQ6, which turned out to be surprisingly easy once I stumbled across the video tutorial on how to make a quilt label (it wasn't going too well up to that point). I spent some time googling on garden quotations, and discovered that Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called 'The Glory of the Garden' so I have borrowed that title as the name for my quilt, because I thought it suited what I liked about the design: the colourful flowers both pieced and appliqued.

I also took a couple of pics of items referred to in recent posts. Here is the finished Ridged Feather sock from 'Sensational Socks'. The heel is quite neat because you put half the stitches on a holder, and cast them on again on a provisional cast-on, then knit the heels as a bulls-eye which is closed with kitchener stitch. Then you undo your provisional cast-on, and keep knitting along the foot of the sock. You choose the colour stripe carefully when you rejoin the self-striping yarn so that the pattern looks continuous rather than being interrupted for the heel.

This is the fair isle band I knit on Saturday on my knitting course. I have finished the two edges but it is a bit loose to be an ear warmer. I can either put elastic in it, or I was thinking it might make a neat handbag top if I knit a body in a co-ordinating colour. I went to an interesting lecture by Fiona Morris on felting knitting (at the Fleet Machine Knitting club on Tuesday) and she had made some lovely felted bags. The fair-isle band should felt as it is in Rowan wool and I could knit the body in my Rowan big wool.

I've also cast on for a new project, the 'Suzy' jacket-cardigan from Rowan using Rowan Big Wool in a nice navy colour. It is knit on 15mm huge needles which are awkward and tiring to use, but it is growing quickly. I was able to view several other 'Suzy' jackets on Ravelry, I hope mine will turn out well. Ravelry is such a great resource for knitters, I'm so glad I finally got through the waiting list and received an invitation.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

I went on a knitting course

Yesterday (Saturday) I went up to London for a one-day workshop on Fair Isle & Continental Knitting, at the Loop shop in Islington. I had a bit of trouble finding the shop, as their artistic website map is fairly removed from reality, but I managed to get there a few minutes before the course started. The teaching room is the basement of their small shop, a rather crowded and cold room which is also their stock room. There is one long table with two (uncomfortable) benches on either side, and a stool at each end. Thank god I got there in time to bag a bench seat, I would never have survived sitting on a stool. So they can accommodate 7 students and one teacher.

Our tutor for the day was Linda Marveng, a lovely Norwegian lady who gave us a big pack of written material so that we didn't have to take notes during the day. There was free tea/coffee/biscuits but lunch was not provided - the talk at lunch- break amongst participants was that other courses (John Lewis, Rowan) provide lunch and more comfortable facilities, and probably represent better value for money overall.

We were each given two balls of Rowan Pure Wool DK and a set of Addi Turbo circular needles which were ours to keep. I am a fairly recent knitter so I didn't expect to do very well, but the first part of the course was on how to use the long-tail cast-on and how to knit continental style, both of which I already knew, so I was suddenly showing other people how to do things! Then we moved on to reading Fair Isle charts and how to hold the two yarn colours. I was able to try three different methods (both strands over left index finger, using a finger ring yarn guide, and one strand knit continental/ one strand knit English style in RH) and settled on holding a strand with each hand. Only I am knitting the RH strand continental method as well, not throwing it as the English knitters were all doing. I got on fairly well, I just had to be careful not to pull the RH yarn tighter than the LH yarn. I knit through one repeat of my pattern which is wide enough to turn into an ear-warmer band I think. Linda also showed us the Magic Loop method, knitting a steek then cutting it for a traditional jumper arm hole, and the three-needle bind-off.

I enjoyed the day a lot, Linda was lovely and everyone else on the course was nice as well, and we had some interesting conversations while we knit away. By the end of several hours on the almost-unpadded bench, my bum and back were killing me, so I was glad when we finished a little early and I was able to shoot off home for the Fireworks.

Tomorrow night (5th November) is Bonfire night, or Guy Fawkes night, so there were a lot of fireworks displays last night (Saturday). We went to one at the local primary school, and it was quite fun and a fairly good display about 15 minutes long. Dh & ds had a burger from the BBQ and then we had some sweets.

I am still plugging away on the binding for the Paducah entry, I've just turned the second corner so I am more than halfway now. I will be so glad when this is done. I am still trying to come up with an official quilt name for the entry form- dh suggested that my frequent label of 'that stupid quilt' would suffice but I'm not sure the Paducah jury would get it...

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