Tuesday, 22 May 2007
The big news (so big that I haven't actually told dh yet) is that I have ordered the Freestyle quilting frame that I mentioned in my last post. I decided to go for the six-foot poles (which will accept a five foot quilt and will therefore let me quilt a single/twin quilt) even though that is going to make the frame about 10 inches wider than my table surface. I've chatted on the phone to the people who are making it, and it sounds like it might be alright although I may find I have vibration and need to rest the frame on some padding like thick felt. Apparently it is easy to check whether the frame is supported ok - if you slide the carriage to the extreme left or right, and the whole frame doesn't cantilever up and cartwheel over under the weight of your sewing machine, then you are good to go. I think I am going to want someone to help me when I check that! I will have to get into the habit of making my queen-size quilts in two halves or a middle-with-borders-added-afterwards, because I am not going to get my usual 85-95" wide quilt on this frame.
Hopefully next time I post I will be back on broadband!
Saturday, 19 May 2007
I've just come back from a day trip to the Malvern quilt show, held at the Three Counties showground near Great Malvern - this is a 3 hour train journey with one change from my house, I had to get the 7:23 am train and eventually arrived at the show after a taxi ride about 10:45 a.m. after a fairly easy journey. I had a good day at the show - I lurked around my two quilts to see what people were saying. This bookcase quilt was entered in the Group section and was very popular, lots of people were exclaiming over it and pointing out things they liked about it, which was very ego-stroking as I loitered nearby trying not to look like a mad stalker. I also had a basket wall hanging (four baskets of flowers from an E. Burns book) entered, but it didn't attract as much interest even though I really like it. I came away with about 10 metres of fabric, two Japanese books of bags/small items, two rulers (a 60 degree ruler and the Marti Michell Log Cabin ruler), a Clover yo-yo maker, a bag pattern, and some more machine needles. I also saw a really cool tabletop frame called the Freestyle, similar to the Handiquilter but being manufactured in the UK, which was very tempting. My Janome has a deeper than normal throat so would be good on a frame. The Freestyle comes apart for storage, and comes with various widths of rod, but the widest I could put on my table would not be as wide as the doubles/queen sizes I normally make, so I would have to quilt in two halves, or in parts. I am not a huge fan of all-over quilting - I thought some of the otherwise quite nice pieced quilts at the show today were more or less ruined by completely irrelevant all-over quilting - but I know you can also use frames for part of the quilting process and then perhaps fill in more custom details off the frame. It might help to whittle down my growing top collection, I will have to measure my table and have a think about this.
Tomorrow I am off gallivanting again, I am going on a short road trip to a dollshouse store in a garden centre with a tea room in the morning and with luck will have lunch there as well (so not cooking at home!)
Tuesday, 15 May 2007
So then I thought I should try a paler colour and pinned on this pale blue gingham, as there is a lot of checked fabric in the star itself. But the white in this gingham just makes the star look dirtier than ever and the background doesn't do anything for it.
Then I tried an ecru printed fabric, thinking the beige tone might suit better with the vintage tint of the Lone Star, but again this doesn't do anything for the star. Part of the problem is that there are so many colours and values fighting in the star.
By now I am getting fed up with pinning and unpinning fabric, and even the original wishy-washy pink is starting to look better. Help please! Leave me a comment with your suggestions or opinions.
Sunday, 13 May 2007
I found the totes quite straightforward to assemble, they use the notch system similar to the drawers on the other kits to align the pieces. I painted them inside and along the top edges with acrylic paint, and sealed the art work before cutting it out and gluing it on. The instructions recommend gluing one piece at a time, and trimming any excess, and I found this easy to do by laying the tote down against the cutting mat and running a sharp blade along the edge of the tote itself to trim off slivers of paper. To get a neat finish around the handle, the kit recommends gluing on the end piece, then slicing a horizontal cut, and rolling a toothpick around the opening for a neat finish. For this to work, you need to have glue on that area of the paper (otherwise I usually apply the glue to the wood) and again, I found I could lay the tote down to make the cut, angling my knife from the inside of the tote to cut across the handle opening. By the way, I realised that these totes could also be used in 1/12th scale, where they are about desk-tidy size, so I might order an extra kit.
The night stand also went together quite easily, the techniques needed are quite familiar now that I have assembled the bed and dresser. The only problem area is once again the drawer, it is sized to fit almost exactly when bare wood, so the merest whisper of paint around the drawer area, or behind it on the drawer stops, prevents it from closing properly. I ended up having to sand off all the paint on all four sides, so if it were opened it is pretty ugly, but otherwise it wouldn't shut. The little mirror is the little extra with this kit, and went together fine.
I was very brave today and turned on my sewing machine for the first time since its return. I have wound two bobbins and done some walking foot machine quilting, and so far (touch many forests of wood) it is fine. I haven't been running it at speed and I haven't tried the thread cutter yet because I am using invisible thread, so I am not 100% sure about it yet, but so far so good.
Saturday, 12 May 2007
When I do follow a pattern, I rarely follow it to the letter, and this would be partly because I think I know an easier way to do it ('think' being the operative word here, doesn't always turn out to be true), or because I've made a mistake and have to undertake some creative bodging to get to the end result.
But having to make up a design entirely from scratch is still majorily out of my comfort zone and I don't feel these quilts are generally very successful. I ran a mystery medallion quilt project with my group last year, we started with a centre block and then I set rules as to the dimensions and theme of each border, but people could use their own fabrics and do whatever they wanted. Of course, this meant that I also had to make a medallion quilt, and apart from deciding to use my blue & white fabric collection, I felt very much at a loss particularly as the quilt grew and grew. I'm still not very happy with the result, which has a 'Blue & White China' theme, and it isn't quilted yet.
Friday, 11 May 2007
I am really liking it so far, these fabrics were bought at Paducah in 2000 and a friend helped me pick out several vintage double pinks and acid greens, which I think is really going to unify the quilt even though all the blocks will be different.
I had a surprise yesterday when my sewing machine suddenly turned up at the door. Its poor box is looking so battered now that it has been away four times. Most recently it went to the Janome factory, and there was a tick-list in the box showing all the things they tested, and it had a hand-written note saying that they have adjusted the thread cutter cam and the needle threader. I hope very much that it is now cured but to tell the truth I am afraid to use it. I got it out of the box today, and I have pinned up the String Star quilt ready for quilting, but I can't quite bring myself to turn it on and try it, in case I hear that dreaded knocking noise again (or the 'kerchunk kerchunk kerchunk' as Swooze has christened it). I've been procrastinating and doing jobs around the house, and a tension sample for my next knitting project (in Rowan Biggy Print wool that I got half price). I know I have to do this thing, but I am working up to it. I think it is going to take me a long time to trust again.
Monday, 7 May 2007
This is the picture from the remaining workshop of the five that I did over the weekend with the Stay At Home Miniaturists Online Convention - a 1/12th scale arrangement of laser-cut paper flowers (which had to be built up petal by petal onto wire stems which took absolutely forever - I will not be going into the paper florist business anytime soon). I put this together this morning while I am also gradually cleaning up the debris from two full days of crafting. I've got enough flowers to do a second similar arrangement as well, just waiting for another vase to arrive.
This was my first online convention so I wasn't sure what to expect. There was a private chatroom open for the weekend for mass events such as everyone opening their goodie bags (which had arrived in the post) on Saturday morning. Everyone who wanted to take part had to make 25 items earlier in the year and send them off (I made 25 little faux-patchwork pillows) to the coordinator, who mixed them up and sent you back a bag of 25 assorted goodies from other people. The workshops were also conducted in a private chatroom which doubled up as the full-colour photo illustrated instructions which were displayed below the chat window. You purchased and ordered the kit ahead of time which arrived in the post, and did some pre-work to get ready for the workshop. Then on the day you attended at the specified time to see the instructions and the teacher was in the chatroom to answer any questions the participants might have. There is a dedicated Yahoo website where we could post photographs of our completed items to share with the others, and of our swap items and goodie bag hauls. There were apparently over 40 people signed up, but only about 10-12 of them participated actively which is a shame because it could be such a great opportunity for interactive fun. The organiser puts this down to the majority of participants being British and not wanting to join in actively like Americans might, but I know this isn't true on other chats/groups so perhaps it is just the members of this particular club.
I've discovered that I can buy yarn on line, as well as fabric, so have sent off for some more Rowan Big Wool which was on sale 20% off and a pattern for a jacket-cardigan which I hope I can wear to work if it turns out. I've put together my son's string star quilt and am just carefully enveloping it (sewing it RST to the backing, adding wadding, then turning through a gap to the right side) to avoid a bound edge so that the quilt stays soft and drapeable. I don't often use the envelope method as I find it not nearly as flat and professional a result as a normally sandwiched quilt, but for a single-size done carefully I think you can get away with it if you are not planning on quilting too closely, because there are always some fullness issues no matter how carefully you layer it. I watched a woman in my club completely destroy two quilts by just slapping them on the backing and sewing round them, no clamping or pinning or anything, and of course it was a complete disaster when she tried to quilt them, huge pleats and puckers on the back, and she ended up having to completely unpick both of them and start over. You may be wondering why I didn't step in at the beginning, but I have shown 'correct' methods on several occasions but most of my members are older than me and some of them just will do things their own way, so I minimise my own aggravation by looking the other way a lot of the time. I personally do not choose to use nylon sheeting as backing, or the world's cheapest polyester 3-inch thick batting, but if they are happy then more power to them I say. Anyway, I had better get on with restoring the craft room back to its normal function as a kitchen before dh starts grumbling.
Sunday, 6 May 2007
It was really nice to just make things for two days, but the concentration is surprisingly exhausting, not to mention sitting in one place for so many hours. I was a bit disappointed with the chatting, they were a pretty quiet bunch and could certainly learn something from the #Quiltchatters, but the workshops were well organised. I pulled my computer out of its cabinet and set up a craft table right next to it, so I could chat and work at the same time (and now have glue stains all over the keyboard, lol). The family were warned that they had to look after themselves, which they did with varying degrees of success (I think the novelty wore off on Sunday) and we had takeaway for supper! Great weekend.
Friday, 4 May 2007
Thursday, 3 May 2007
I found some scrap wood in the shed and cut three pieces to create a u-shaped base underneath the box, faced the plywood edges of the box with some moulding, and covered the outside with some plastic brick material I had left over (bought it in the post-xmas sales at a gift shop that sold those light-up miniature xmas villages - I think it is meant to be 'path'). Inside I made a simple shelf, and covered the shelf and the base with some velour upholstery to look like carpet. Now I just need to come up with a fabulous name for my dollshouse shop window.
What else have I been doing? Well, I've sewn a few more blocks for the border of the scrap quilt - I need 24 and have completed 15. I've had a conversation with Repair Guy who has thrown in the towel and on Tuesday the machine was collected and shipped back to the Janome factory to see what they make of it. I've started my second April hand-applique block which has loads of pieces and is going to take a while. I've almost finished my Rowan Big Wool cushion cover - which is so long now that I am starting to feel like I am knitting Old Father Time's white beard or something, but I still have about 10 inches to go. I'm learning how to lace knit because I got bored with the mosaic knitting chapter in my 'Learn-To-Knit Afghan Book' and have skipped ahead to the lace section. But mainly I have spent several hours doing the pre-work for an on-line miniaturists' convention that I am doing this weekend through the 'Stay At Home Miniaturists Club'. I'm not a member but they have this open convention once a year and I thought it sounded pretty cool. We've swapped tote bag favours so I have an envelope of goodies that I can't open until Saturday morning, we've done individual swaps and I sent off a little embroidered sampler to my swap partner and have her mysterious envelope to open on Saturday, and I am taking five on-line workshops: A French dresser with plates and bowls on it, a Victorian chair where a maid has left behind her cleaning supplies, a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, an arrangement of lavender toiletries, and a suitcase set. I've told my husband and son that the computer's end of the kitchen is closed for the weekend - they are allowed to access the fridge, cooker and sink but aren't allowed to talk to me :)..... they think I'm joking...
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