Saturday, 31 March 2007

Two-level 144th seaside room

I finished something! That's the good news. This is my 144th scale room box (for non-miniaturists, this room is about one-inch high) with seaside views, constructed from a laser cut kit but I added the extra window and the curtains blowing in the breeze.

The bad news is that at my sewing group today, my blessed dang Janome 6500 started making the banging noise again, after about one hour of free motion quilting. It was so loud that everyone in the room was looking at me and I had to stop for the day. **!x&!!&**&*. So it will have to go back to the service shop again (3rd time), and then there is Easter holiday, and I probably won't see the dang-blasted thing again for weeks. I guess I didn't need to worry that I wasn't going to get my hand applique blocks done.

Oh, and I swapped the Brown Bag challenge at the meeting, and I have a bag of satisfactory fabrics in autumn tones, and the lady wants a dresser runner. She's given the measurements and I am pleased, shouldn't be too hard (she said).

I have also organised a second challenge for a smaller group of four. We have all chosen a picture, drawn a line pattern to A3 size (that's about two Letter sheets of paper side by side), cut the pattern into four, and handed a strip of pattern plus a copy of the colour photo to each group member. The challenge is to 'paint with fabric' over the pattern piece to match the photograph. So I will do one slice of my own picture, and one of each of their pictures. And I will get a slice back from each of them, then I will sew the four slices back together and have an unusual fractured picture to which I can add borders etc. The photos are going to be really challenging - one lady has chosen a Monet painting, one lady has a holiday photo of a row of Belgian houses (we each do one house and mine is a cafe), and the third has chosen an oil painting of one of the early black visitors to the UK in the 16thC. My stash is really going to be challenged on this one!

Friday, 30 March 2007

Blog Pressure

I know that at least some of the other quilt bloggers use their blog as a self-motivational tool, and certainly I have felt a beneficial pressure to get things done so I can put them on the blog. But I am now finding that I am suffering from 'blog pressure' when I have had a few days of being otherwise occupied. If I haven't actually finished anything, there is nothing to photograph, even though I may have put in some work on various hobbies. Is this a new syndrome? Blog peer pressure?? What I have been doing is tidying up our attic (being a typical UK house we don't have a basement, so everything goes into the attic). And although this is a very worthwhile and long overdue activity, it doesn't actually produce photos for the blog unless you really want to see me in old clothes with blackened hands shifting the junk around. I've also been a bit unnerved at how many files of 'might do that someday' patterns and magazine clippings I have up there, not too mention a whole box of cross-stitch kits that I had kind of forgotten about, all sorts of dollshouse supplies, and enough magazine back issues to start my own secondhand book shop.

Anyway, bowing to blog pressure, I have run around the house and taken a few digital photos so the anxiety will just stop. :)

This is one of our two cats, Colin, who has made himself a nice nest in my husband's Trip Round the World tv quilt. Black cats don't photograph very well, obviously, and I took about 8 photos of him while he regarded me resignedly, waiting for me to go away and leave him in peace.

Realising that I am about to run out of 'March', I have been hurrying up with the second March applique block from my self-imposed BOM in double-pinks and acid greens, using designs from 'Grandmother's Last Quilt'. Here is the start of it, the holly leafs will go all around the outside of the circle then there will be some berries as well.

Above is the finished 1/12th display cabinet, filled with my teapot collection and installed in my Canadian house living room. I had to evict the television and its table to make room for this, but the dolls were likely watching too much tv anyway. My husband noticed immediately that there is room for two more teapots at the bottom :)

Tomorrow, my Saturday Sewing Group will be exchanging fabric for a brown bag challenge to make household items. Above is the fabric that I will be passing anonymously to another group member, and I have asked for a tablerunner. I hope that the fabric I get in exchange isn't too ugly :)

And finally, I have made a start on my 2 Level Room box kit in 1/144th scale from sdk miniatures, which was announced on the MicroMinis Yahoo group and is the subject of a challenge. As you may be able to make out, I have stained various parts and also cut out an extra window in the back wall.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

My Sewing Room

The Stashbuster challenge is to show pics of our sewing area and stash. Mine is squeezed into the end of my bedroom and I am a bit shocked at how much of a mess it looks in the photos I have taken. It is actually very organised but you would never know from these photos!

The stash is in two fitted closets at the end of the room, and then spilled over into a storage unit which is supposed to be discreetly covered with a curtain (pulled back for photo so you can see the storage bins) which of course now is covered with stuff. The sewing table has two folding flaps, and was purchased with the idea that I could fold down the flaps and stow it in the closet when I wasn't using it. Needless to say it has never been folded down in three years, and the gap in the closet where it was meant to go has now filled up with bags of stash.

This is the right hand closet - the cupboard is full of craft supplies like glue and paint, and the FQs are in the gap arranged by colour - wadding (batting) is on top of the cupboard.

The other cupboard has all the larger stash. It started out folded neatly on card supports on the side shelves, but has long since spilled over onto the floor. You can see my stencils and unquilted tops on the doors

I haven't done any sewing today, but I took a pic of the Tumbler quilt which is the sister quilt to the Dresden Plate that I am currently working on. It was cut out at the same time from the same fabrics. It's about 18 inches on the long side.

Now that it is spring here in the UK, I have cycled my wallhanging in the kitchen to display my Spring wallhanging. I made this last year from the Eleanor Burns book full of lovely flower appliques, and I chose three that grow in my garden, then I designed the primrose basket as I also have those. I have entered this in the Malvern quilt show this year so it will get an outing.

That's about it for tonight. The only other thing I was going to say was that I surfed around some of the other websites in the Stashbuster web ring this afternoon, and was very impressed. I am very new to this blogging business, but so many of the other sites look so polished. Will have to work on my presentation!

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

A drib drab day

Today was one of those days where sadly the crafts only got attention in dribs and drabs, slotting in around the mundane chores of household and office. My first break was an opportunity to start on this display cabinet which I bought at Miniatura, and which will display my 1/12th teapot collection. This was a cheap whitewood cabinet which used to have two drawers, I decided it was too tall and with much violence and sharp instruments (including smoking Dremel cut-off disks) I managed to separate the second drawer and cut down the sides. Then I stained it and gave it a first coat of gloss varnish. There are still a few bald spots where the manufacturing glue repelled the stain, so I will need to touch those up with paint. This cabinet only cost £5.50, but the factory in India or China or whereever it is are obviously using industrial strength glue, because the bottom of the drawer was not going to separate from the base for love or money. I ended up cutting it into chunks with the Dremel and chipping it off with a stanley knife, not fun. I wouldn't be surprised if this furniture is a sideline for some factory that usually makes parts for the space missions, lol.

I didn't get much knitting done today, but last night I got close to finishing the back of my tank top. The reason for the bizarre shaping is that this is a racing back tank top. I'm still not convinced about the top part where I am currently binding off - the two 'wings' will meet the shoulder straps coming over from the front, but I wouldn't be surprised if they are too fat and I have to unpick the back a few rows.

Another thing I finished off today was a pendant of several beads in a charm cluster. I saw something like this in a magazine at the hairdressers on Friday for an outrageous price, and thought 'I could make that' so I stopped at the local bead shop on the way home and picked out several beads that I liked. The camera didn't want to focus on something this small, which is why the pic is fuzzy.

And finally, I did get a bit of sewing done. My Janome arrived back home from its second trip to the service centre today, so I set it up and sewed together a couple of the miniature Dresden Plates that I am working on. The machine seems to be working ok except for a brief heartstopping moment when it made the knocking sound again, but then it stopped. I am only sewing very short seams here (plates are c. 5 inches across) so I will have to see how the machine performs when I let her rip on something longer. I am contemplating this blue solid as a background fabric, it seems to show off the plates fabric fairly well. I might sash and cornerstone with some of the leftover darker Liberty Lawn fabric. I've got enough pre-cut plate pieces for 5 and a bit plates, which is a bit useless, so I think I will use four and make a mini wall hanging. I like wall hangings and have made quite a few of them, I like ringing the changes around the house and they are much easier to display than a big quilt.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Miniatura and Knitting

I had a fantastic day yesterday at Miniatura, the huge dollshouse and miniatures fair at the National Exhibition Centre outside Birmingham. This is a wonderful fair, full of makers and dealers, with a wide selection of styles, eras, supplies, price range and scales. It is the best place to shop if you are into the smaller scales and I indulged myself rather excessively. I got home just before supper time, broke and absolutely exhausted but what a great day. I found some more metal furniture at Tadpoles and TeePee Crafts to finish my 144th scale Baby House, and picked up some more wooden 144th kits from Judith at In Some Small Way. I picked up a load of small scale ribbon trims - although annoyingly I kept seeing this at cheaper and cheaper prices as I worked my way around. The first place I bought at, one of these pile 'em high stalls, was selling 1.5 metres for £1, and I picked up several packets. Then I found the 'Little Trimmings' stall where you could get 4 metres for £1.15, and finished up at the TeePee Craft stall where I noticed several trims at .18p a metre. Grrr. Oh well, one of the benefits of losing my memory in middle age is that I won't remember what I paid in a few months, lol. I bought a lovely Bunka rug kit from Little Trimmings to go with my Miss Lydia Pickett kits, some 1/24th scale pies and cakes, and a lovely cottage teapot from Sally Meekin, for my Fishermen's TeaRoom. I got a 1/12th scale Castle teapot from Sally as well, and then of course I had to purchase a glass display cabinet from Jennifer's of Walsall as I realised that I now have several teapots and it is a Collection and needs a display home. Anyway, suffice it to say that I came home with a bulging bag. DH immediately wanted to know what I had bought, but thankfully quickly lost interest as I cunningly showed him some of the cheaper and more boring purchases first...

I managed to knit through a whole ball of my Phildar Aviso in the car on the way up and back, this yarn knits up so quickly and is so beautifully soft. I think I am going to have enough for my chosen pattern, a racer-back tank top that I found on the internet. My gauge is not the same as theirs, I have made adjustments for the length and width but I am not too sure about the shaping, may just have to wing that part of it.
I have also dutifully started another project from my UFO list: a miniature Dresden Plate of Liberty Lawn fabrics that I cut out at least 8 years ago if not longer. There used to be a man in the UK that was called the 'Liberty Man' because he would come to guilds with loads of wide Liberty fabric scraps and strings to sell. Presumably he was getting scraps from their factory or something. I bought several from him when he came to a guild that I used to belong to, and made a baby quilt as a gift for a friend out of them. Then I cut up the scraps into a miniature Tumbler quilt, which turned out well, and for a Dresden Plate, which sat there for years. I used acrylic templates from Sharon Jorgensen, and it is the kind of plate with pointed petals, each one about 3 inches long unfinished. I haven't taken a picture because currently it looks like I dismembered a strange Liberty Lawn flower and left its petals all over my sewing table. I will have to think about what background fabric to use - the pattern uses a plain muslin but I don't think that would suit these fabrics. Likely I will need to make the plates up and trial them on various colours to see what suits.

Crossed Canoes

Having blogged about my Crossed Canoes vintage top rescue operation, I started thinking about it (hadn't looked at it since putting the frame away for Christmas) and wondering if it was as bad as I recalled. So I pinned it up to my dandy new quilt hanging system to take a pic.

I won this top at auction at the Paducah MAQS auction, an impulse buy that I hadn't previewed or anything, I was attracted by the blue (my favourite colour) and the scrappiness. On closer inspection, it was discovered to be one of those tops that are UFOs for a reason. I think the blue flowery fabric dates from the 1950s (because I saw something very similar in a dated 1950s quilt) and the scraps are likely from the past few decades. The scraps are string pieced onto a very coarse thick foundation (sacking?) and not particularly well stitched, with a very coarse thread (which I wouldn't be surprised if it was feedsack string or something similar). The flowering blue fabric is fine, but the solid blue is of thin poor quality, and several pieces have a flaw of missing threads running through them.

But the really bizarre design feature is that the blue background pieces were not cut to shape to fit around the stars. They are virtually rectangles that have been stitched along the sides of the star and of course this results in a significant amount of fullness along the edge. Undaunted by this, the unknown maker carefully matched the seams and stitched all the fullness to each other to create a top which just naturally wants to look like a 3-D topographical map. Having discovered the true nature of my purchase, it sat in my quilt closet for years until I started my UFO-buster last year. What do you do with a quilt where every block wants to be a curved-bowl shape? Well, in the end, I pinned it down to the carpet, pulling the vertical and cross seams straight, and using a square to square it up. I just let the gathers fall where they may, and measured in several places to get a notional width and height. I then pieced a border out of repro 30s orange fabrics (and it was difficult to choose a border colour - the blue is a faded and slightly yellow blue, and did not look good with any colour from my stash, but there is a lot of orange in the string stars so I decided to go with orange). I pinned the border pieces on and eased in the fullness, actually stitching in pleats in severe areas, to give the quilt a frame that would keep it square. I then sandwiched it up under tension and pinned in all the fullness, trying to keep the blocks square. The thickness of the foundation makes this a hard one to handquilt - I started by going diagonally criss-cross through all the stars, and am currently stitching a 1/4 frame around each blue piece. But I am literally gathering in the fullness as I stitch, particularly on some of the worst blocks, to tame this top down to something flat. I am also hoping that when it is finally done and I can wash it (and it isn't particularly clean) that the fabric will shrink up a bit and disguise the gathers. Just hope the foundation sacking doesn't fall apart. I don't know if I will do any further quilting once I finish the blue pieces - normally I don't like puffy areas on a quilt but to do anything further in the blue areas would entail stitching over actual gathers which wouldn't be nice.
I still like this piece but it will be no beauty when it is done. The size is just enough to be a topper on my queen-size bed so I do plan to use it (assuming it doesn't fall apart in the wash) and I look forward to crossing it off my UFO list!

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Vintage tops, knitting and comments

On various trips to America I have acquired an odd assortment of sad orphans (one was labelled as a 'cutter' quilt - shock, horror!) which I have patched up. The top in the picture is a vintage Spiderweb (30s or 40s?) which I bought from a dealer in Paducah in 2005, mainly because I found that completed quilts (even the sad ones) had risen out of my price range.

The Spiderweb was fairly well made, all hand sewn, and remarkably the maker doesn't seem to have used any foundation or templates. The 3/4" wide finished strings are all sewn with tiny 1/8" seams (note to self: do not let dh sit on this one) and the whole thing lies pretty flat although slightly hourglass shaped. I don't know why it is unfinished, perhaps because not all the green background fabric is the same shade, or because the fabric scraps used do not all 'gel' very well (notice how the red block right of centre stands out). Last night and today I added on the two borders. The first border of red polka dots is a close copy of a fabric in the quilt already (a feedsack print that I found on the internet), and I cut it to be 3/4" finished so it matches the strings in the quilt. The second border of plain navy acts as a frame - I have left it at about 3 inches wide for now but will likely trim it down after the top is quilted.

I am currently (well, it is near the hoop anyway) hand-quilting a Crossed Canoes top which I bought at the MAQS fundraising auction which has its own unique 3-D ruffly thing going on - I am not so much handquilting as gathering the fullness in from around each block, lol. I am driven by a need both to rescue this malformed top into something usable, and a guilty feeling that I need to justify the money I spent on it by finishing it. At the same time I sort of wonder why I am doing it - it is impossible to quilt with small stitches because of all the thickness of the foundation behind the stringed canoes so my quilting looks awful. This is not a quilt that I will want anyone to see, ever, except possibly in a photograph from a distance. Yet I am still doing it (well, I haven't given up on it anyhow and I am sure I will get back to it eventually).

I was pleased recently to get my hands on a book called "Worth Doing Twice: Creating Quilts from Old Tops" thinking "I might learn something", but it turns out that what these two authors do is to actually dismember the old top completely, right down to its component patches. They then discard any that aren't up to scratch (replacing with vintage fabric), recut for accuracy, and completely reassemble. So what you get is the old top but made completely new and perfect. Well, I'm sorry, but I love my sad little orphans and I think all the flaws are what makes them so charming. Someone, somewhere, 'designed' that top with all its flaws, and maybe it was because they couldn't sew very well, or they were really old or young, or they couldn't afford good fabric, or they were just making do. I handquilted another joyful top of alternating 30s triangles where the joining stitches were so big you could put your finger through between them - I'm guessing maybe a child sewed it. But my handquilting is holding it together and I treat it carefully, so it's fine. And the Spiderweb quilt will be too once it gets quilted (but still not letting dh on it, lol).

I've been feeling really inspired about knitting lately because I've just finished reading a really cool book called "It's my party and I'll knit if I want to" by Sharon Aris. It is basically about the young knitting scene in Australia and has chapters like "knitting as the new feminism", sort of like chick lit for crafters. Abandoning my sewing machine, I went out to the shed where I keep a lot of my knitting stash and had a lovely rummage around in boxes, emerging eventually with some Phildar Aviso (cotton yarn). I think I've got enough for a tank top so then I spent another enjoyable hour surfing free knitting patterns on the web. About 2:30 pm I realised that I was running out of time for any sewing, so that was when I whipped upstairs to add the last borders to the Spiderweb.

And finally, I was rather startled to find that my new blog has attracted some comments. It feels kind of strange, like someone reading your diary, but in a good way because they are all appreciative (and many of them are from Swooze, who obviously has waaaayyyy too much time on her hands, lol). Thank you, kind visitors, and I wish you all the best in your own crafty endeavours.

Knitting for the Long Term

I finished another square on my knitted afghan last night. That was square 14 and there are more than 60 in the book I am using, the 'Learn to Knit Afghan' book. Each square is in a different stitch pattern and they are grouped into different chapters of technique. Currently I am in the Mosaic knitting chapter. The book teaches continental style knitting, which I am liking but I had to look at some on-line knitting videos to understand some of the stitches - sometimes you just can't pick up things like that from a 2-D drawing on the page. I am knitting in Debbie Bliss Merino Aran wool, which is just the most gorgeous soft non-scratchy wool and gives really good stitch definition. /br

I write in pencil in my book the date that I finish each square. I started this project in October 2006, and at first on the easier patterns was churning out 2 or 3 squares a week. However, I noticed last night that since xmas, I have only been producing one a month. At over 60 squares, I am on track to finish this afghan in FIVE YEARS. Need to knit more...

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Sew Pretty Handbag

As my reward for finishing a UFO to top-stage on Sunday, I hopped off the UFO-treadmill and started on a handbag that I saw Eleanor Burns make on an old episode of Quilt in a Day. I liked it because it was quick and easy, made from beautiful 30s fabrics and so prettified that it is likely almost useless, lol.
I finished it tonight after work and am quite pleased with it. Eleanor decorated the front of hers with a half-Grandmother's Flower Garden Hexagon, but I have used half of a vintage crocheted doiley with a butterfly pattern. I bought the doiley at a charity shop for .50 pence but it still required an act of courage to cut it in half. But this way it is on display and being used, which must be better than living under my bed in my two large bags of vintage filet crochet which I have collected over the years and have absolutely nowhere to display.
The bag is fully lined, with an internal pocket, and I have used a different fabric for the front, back and bottom. The outside fabric is strengthened with the application of medium fusible web. The top edge is finished with the insertion of rick-rack which is how Eleanor did hers. I will have to watch out for a really beautiful vintage button to use on the closure, but for now I have used a modern button that looks vintage.
Going back to my finished top, we were discussing on #QuiltChat whether a UFO finished to top-stage (but not yet sandwiched and quilted) is still considered a UFO, or whether it has moved upwards to a higher plane of existence. Some felt that until it is quilted and bound it remains a UFO, but personally I feel that once it is in the pile to be quilted, it is off my UFO radar. I enjoy piecing much more than quilting, but sometimes I am in the mood to sandwich something and quilt it - however, not very often so unless I send things out to a long-armer, the pile of tops never seems to get any smaller.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Flowering Vines Applique

Flowering Vines Applique
Originally uploaded by shinynewthing.
I decided to stop being precious about my sewing machine, and sat down and tried to get my other machine to sew a 1/4 inch seam. I got something set up that was fairly close, and went on to assemble the blocks and borders for this Flowering Vines UFO. I also tried using my new quilt hanging system to take the photograph, and discovered that the upper banister gets in the way, lol. Still, it was easier than trying to drape it over the tv cupboard which was my usual standby.

When I decided to replace some of the border block backgrounds with a pink, I was pleased to find exactly the colour I had in mind in my stash. Of course there wasn't enough of it, but I thought 'no problem' and sat down on the computer to order more online. An hour later I had discovered nothing like what I wanted, and of course the fabric I had was several years old and no longer available. So back to the cutting board, where I managed to squeeze out all the 8 1/2 inch blocks except two, which are the middle blocks on the sides. I also left the corner blocks as beige background. Some of the pink blocks are in the best vintage tradition by having their backgrounds literally pieced together out of the odd shaped cutting scraps I was ending up with after cutting out most of the blocks. In fact I will confess to actually pulling small snippets of pink back out of the bin when I was getting really desperate on the last few blocks. Thanks to the print on the pink, and the vivid applique, the desperateness is hardly visible unless you look very closely. I am going to call it a design feature...

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Quilt Hanging System

Ever since we moved into our house three years ago, I have been planning to create a place to hang quilts in our stairwell. The house isn't that big and there are virtually no places to hang anything bigger than a wallhanging (a problem when I want to photograph a quilt as well). I knew how I was going to do it, and then finally last summer I bought the hardware for doing it from a yachting supply store. And today I got my dh to hold the ladder and we finally got around to putting the system up.

As you can see, there are two right-angle brackets screwed to the brickwork. From each one hangs a u-shaped clasp, from which hangs a pulley. On the left is a single pulley, and on the right is a double pulley. A lightweight nylon cord from the yachting store runs in a continuous loop starting from a snap on the bottom left (which snaps onto a screw-eye mounted on a wooden batten), runs up through the single pulley, along to the right into the double pulley, hangs down in a long loop to where there is a cleat screwed to the wall, continues back up into the other side of the double pulley, and down again to the right-hand screw-eye on the right side of the wooden batten. The batten is wrapped in muslin strip to protect the quilt, and is small enough to fit through a standard four-inch sleeve on the back of a quilt even with the screw-eyes mounted on it. The picture at left is of the right-hand double pulley.
When I want to change the quilt, I release the long loop so that the batten comes down towards me, unsnap one end of the rope and slip the batten out of the quilt sleeve, into the new quilt's sleeve, re-snap the rope on, and hoist away on the long loop until the batten is high up the wall again. Adjustments to level the quilt are easy, just pull on either the left or right rope until it is even. I tie off the rope at a cleat mounted at the bottom right.
It turns out that our stairwell is only 73" wide, so I cut the wooden batten at 69.5" to give it some play at either end (so it wouldn't hit the wall). This means that I can only display single quilts hanging flat, double and queen size will have to be gathered onto the batten and I don't know whether that will look good or not. This should also be a good way to photograph smaller tops as I can pin the top to the muslin and take a photo from the upper landing.

Bag Lady

I suppose the upside of being denied the use of my sewing machine is that I had no choice but to continue on with my handwork. Therefore I finished the applique on my first March block (trying to do two a month) last night. It just needs a bit of embroidery to give a 'stem' to each of the 'grapes' and it is done. I showed it to dh who regarded and asked 'what's it meant to be?', lol. The book I am using (Grandmother's Last Quilt) has designs primarily based on botanical inspiration with a hint of baltimore album. Actually when I was looking back at the book to check placement of the grapes, I realised that I have appliqued the green block in the wrong orientation. Instead of the oak leaves growing out of the urns, it should have been the little grapes. Oh well, I like it better my way and it isn't likely that anyone will be standing looking at my quilt while they have the book in their hand.

I also finished off my handbag knitted from one-inch fabric strips. I've included a couple of dice in the picture for scale. The handle is surprisingly comfortable, although chunky in the hand. I think I am going to line it for peace of mind, otherwise I will be worried than pens and things are going to work their way out through the stitching. That means I will have to break out the Plan B sewing machine which isn't nearly as good as my lovely Janome, but hopefully up to sewing a lining together. I am a bit schizophrenic about this handbag - I am very pleased with how it turned out, and I love the colours, and I can easily imagine myself walking around the rarified atmosphere of a quilting show with it in my hand. When I try to picture myself out on the normal street, in view of normal people, then I don't feel so sure. Is it a fashion accessory? Or just an oddity? Will people admire it, or just feel sorry for me, lol.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Machine Trauma

I can't believe this - I was without my best quilting machine (Janome 6500P) for almost four weeks while it was off having a service and a new motor. I finally got it back last Thursday and sat down today to really work hard on my Flowering Vines UFO, and the stupid machine started making a noise like a hammer. I called up the service shop and held the phone to the machine while I ran it, and I could hear them shouting 'turn it off!'.

The upshot is that it has to go BACK to the shop and get looked at again - they think maybe the courier dropped it or banged it and something has come out of alignment. I can't believe this, two more weeks of handwork. I am a machine girl all the way, this is so frustrating.

Work gets in the way

I've been having to squeeze the hobbies in around the job the last few days, frustrating but then one does pay for the other (wouldn't it be nice if the hobby paid for itself?)
I did get a bit more stitching done on my March applique block, and also managed to assemble the central panel of my UFO Flowering Vines project. But mainly I finished knitting this handbag from fabric strips. It is a pattern by Astor Tsang of Vancouver which was published in the knitting calendar I am using this year. I cut up three yards of an unwanted quilting fabric into 1-inch strips, using a clever continuous strip method that I saw demo'd at a free workshop in Paducah. It's been really fun to knit as the not-much-liked fabric print turned into a lovely scrunchy mosaic of colours. I found knitting with fabric much more physically laborious than knitting with yarn, there is a lot of friction on the strip and I resorted to knitting with a manual yarn over rather than using my left hand index finger in the continental style which is how I knit yarn. Initially I was worried about the wrong side of the fabric showing on stitches, but it turned out not to make any difference and the colour variations just added to the palette. The finished texture is quite thick and has a sort of scrunchy alive feel to it, but it isn't as stiff as I expected, still relatively flexible. I don't think I would want to wear a garment (say a waistcoat) knitted in it, but it would be good for other bags, or table runners, placemats, carpets, that sort of thing. The workshop I went on said that you can also knit with strips of fleece fabric which is much softer.
The picture on the ironing board shows the finished bag with its integral bottom, knit to the pattern's dimensions. Unfortunately, when I sewed this up last night, I didn't like it at all. It came out very long and skinny, looks a bit like a bag made out of a hairy sock. So now I need to frog it back a few inches and make up a new larger bottom to give it more shape. I think unpicking is going to be a bit of a chore as I sewed up with more fabric strips which are now virtually invisible. against the knitting.
All the components of the Flowering Vines quilt are now completed, I just need to keep assembling, hopefully will get more done on that next day.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Working from Home

In between e-mails and phone calls today, I did manage to work on several projects, although my lofty goal of finishing off my Flowering Vines applique top was not accomplished.

In the morning I thought I would spend a few minutes on my Baby House, a 144th scale dollshouse inside a 1/12th scale cabinet. 90 minutes later, it was looking pretty good, lol. I have been inspired by the Bespaq Baby House project that is a workshop offered in America, but I bought a cheaper cabinet at the local miniatures show for mine. I thought it would be a good way to use up all the over-size metal furniture I purchased before realising that it is too big for true 144 scale and for all the lovely 144th scale laser cut house kits. I had previously painted all the 'ceilings' white, and my friend Pauline got me off to a terrific start by suggesting that the lower drawers should be a pull-out garden. Not only was this a great idea, but she actually took them home and did the garden for me. She is a skilled embroideress, and the garden is created with needlework.

The next step was to wallpaper the walls (with internet downloads and printies) and carpet some of the floors (with scrapbook velvet paper). On the lowest floor I used a parquet floor printie and a linoleum printie which I had glued in last night. Today I glued in the last few carpets, and started the enormously enjoyable task of glueing in the furniture which I have been painting over the last few weeks. I also made a few 'plants' from green thread glued in beads, and a bedside lamp from a bead with a roll of printed paper glued together for the shade. A 'pot' for the stove was created with another bead and a wire handle glued on and painted black, a bowl of fruit was another bead with several tiny no-hole beads in red and orange glued in (these were in my goodie bag from the Micro Minis convention weekend). It's not finished yet, but is looking very cute. I need to get two more dining chairs before I can finish the dining room, and I want to create some framed pictures and a framed mirror. The music room could use another piece of furniture, perhaps an armchair. And I want to create a shelf of fabric to go next to the sewing machine. I've included a cotton reel to the left of the image for scale.

Later on, I took my March hand applique block out into the sun and did some stitching. I have set myself the goal of creating two of these large 17.5 inch blocks each month, to create a 25 block quilt. The patterns are mostly from the book 'Grandmother's Last Quilt' but I will also use some from 'The Rose Sampler' book later in the year. The Grandmother's book is challenging as they only include templates for the shapes of the motifs, and tell you to refer to the photo for the layout. Yet some of the blocks are quite geometrically complex so it can be a bit of a stretch trying to lay it out like the photo. Luckily this one is quite straightforward. I am doing needleturn applique, using the vinyl overlay method for positioning the motifs. I'm running a bit late this month because I only finished my second February block on 5th March, lol, due to spending a lot of February hand quilting a competition entry.

Eventually in the afternoon I did get back to the sewing machine and worked on the Flowering Vinees Applique. This is a design by Piece o' Cake, and I bought the kit at least six years ago. I have been trying really hard the past year to finish up some of my older UFOs - actually, the plan was to finish up all the UFOs but unfortunately I have been unable to resist acquiring several more projects this year - I think it is a sickness, lol. Or a weakness. I had made up all the blocks and completed all the applique but then my sewing machine had to go away for a service and didn't come back for about four weeks. That was awful, like having an arm cut off or something. The flowers and leaves I appliqued on with straight stitch on the machine, because I thought it suited the folksy nature of the design. The round centres of the flowers I actually fused on, using the windowed method of fusing (to leave the middles unfused and soft), because I didn't fancy my chances of achieving a round look with straight stitch applique. Today I was finishing zig-zagging with invisible nylon thread around the fused circles, to catch the edges down. Although I didn't work on it as long today as I meant to, I have now completed all the zig-zagging and have started to assemble the central panels. I think it is going to be a cute quilt, but only single size so I don't know if I am going to keep it because my bed is a Queen. The next big job, after assembling the central panels, is going to be taking off the paper from the back of the Chinese Coins strip pieced strips - the instructions recommended stitching them all to a long piece of paper cut to size, to minimise stretching.

Super Sunday

The chatt-ers on #QuiltChat told me that I should have a blog because it is really fun. And I thought, why yes, then I could tell someone all about what I've been doing today and retain the illusion that you are actually interested and listening to me (unlike the polite token interest shown by dh and ds).

So today I can confess that I have spent almost the entire day working on my first Miss Lydia Pickett kit - a 1/24th scale dollshouse bed. I have joined the Miss Lydia Pickett club being offered by Judith at 'In Some Small Way' and I am going to get one of these lovely kits every month. They are laser cut kits but the elements build up very cleverly to give a wonderful 3-D effect, avoiding the flat-skinny look that laser kits can sometimes have. They also come with wonderful printed graphics in a sort of 'shabby chic' style - in the case of the bed, you received the quilt, sheet, bolster and two pillows, and dust ruffle.

I found the kit itself went together very well, apart from two minor niggles. No matter which way I positioned the side rails, the alignment lines on them did not match the alignment lines on the head/foot board - but it turned out this wasn't a problem as you don't need them anyway for glueing on the dust ruffle boards. Also, my headboard braces were about 1/4 inch too wide and I had to cut/sand them down. I mentioned this to Judith and she said she found the same, but that the other kits go together very well. The instructions were fairly clear, although I got a bit confused with ambiguous references to alignment lines (there are lots) and not knowing which ones were being referred to. I sprayed the finished kit with white auto primer, then painted with American Light Buttermilk, and did some drybrushing in a Verdigris colour to bring out the sculptural edges of the posts.

The reason it took me all day was that I wanted to improve on the basic kit, which I found a little bit unrealistic - the dust ruffle as supplied is just glued on flat in a very two-dimensional look, and the bedding likewise looks somewhat plain. Above is the pic of the basic kit. I found that if I very carefully split the supplied dust ruffle pieces down the middle (after copious use of Fray Check), and seamed the short sides together, I could pleat them in my half-scale pleater to achieve a more realistic ruffled look. To flatten the top of the ruffle for a realistic 'gathered' look, I ran some Tacky Glue along the top edge of the ruffle (making sure to get glue into the folds), then sandwiched the glued edge between the two layers of a pressing sheet and used my iron to set the glue flat. Then I set the ruffle aside to dry fully. Once dry, I snipped off any glue 'feathers' along the glued edge, and held it up to the bed to draw a pencil line along the inside for the accurate depth. I cut along that line with scissors, then glued the ruffle into place, ensuring that the raw ends were turned inward. I finished with some co-ordinating picot trim along the top of each ruffle to hide the glued edge.

The rest of the bed came together because fortuitously I read the April issue of 'Dollshouse and Miniature Scene' magazine the previous day which had a wonderful article on the dressed beds created by Kelly Curtis. With those pictures for reference (and I always do much better when I have a picture to look at) I added a lace 'turnback' at the top of the quilt, and instead of seaming my pillows as per the kit instructions, I glued them to achieve a flat edge to which I could apply trim. I finished by creating a third pillow from scratch, using dupion silk, a scrap of lace, an embroidered rose snipped from some trim, and some ruched silk ribbon (which took ages to gather up by patiently stitching tiny stitches in a zig zag pattern along the ribbon).

So here is a picture of my finished bed, which I am really pleased with. Now I just need a 1/24th scale lovely house to put all my kits in, lol. I mentioned this plan to dh, who looked a little stunned as well he might, the dollshouses are already taking over our real house.

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