Friday, 24 August 2007

Tablerunner



This is the tablerunner / dresser scarf that I have been working on for my club's Brown Bag Exchange. It is currently measuring 12" x 45", which is close to the donor's request for 13" x 45". I like how the leaves tessellate, and I thought the pattern was an appropriate choice for the autumnal fabrics. This is a partial set of blocks from a tablerunner pattern in the book "Triangulations Table Runners - A Second Helping" by Bear Paw Productions. Triangulations is a cd I bought myself as a xmas pressie a few years ago - it contains .pdf files of half-square triangle grids in all sizes, so you can print out whatever size you want. I print them out on tracing paper which tears away easily afterwards. I plan to quilt this free motion by stitching veins onto each leaf.

Does anyone else have trouble uploading images into Blogger? I had to try three times before this image would load, and that is quite typical. I keep getting a screen that says 'Internet Connection Problems' or something like that, even though my connection is fine, and it seems to happen at all times of the day. And then when they do load, they always appear at the top of the post, and I have to drag them down to where I want them, which leaves behind extra empty lines and sometimes disrupts other images. All very unsatisfactory. I've tried pasting Images in from the clipboard but that doesn't seem to work. I also cannot upload more than one image at a time (even though Blogger gives the option to upload multiple images) and it won't take in images from the internet (I have to save them to my pc first then upload them). Is it just me or are these still problems left over from the beta blogger? I'm on a 2meg broadband connection which otherwise appears to be working absolutely fine.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Superquilter...

One of the cats is on steroid pills and I am on antibiotics, so both bottles are sitting next to my breakfast glass of water this morning and I got to thinking how easy it would be to get mixed up. If steroids bulk up muscles, what would happen if I start taking cat steroids? Perhaps I will turn into Superquilter, or the world's fastest knitter or maybe just achieve the ability to lick my own behind, who knows. I am getting into quite a routine, I take my antibiotic (for a sinus infection) then I chase down the cat (who now hates me with a passion) and stuff half a steroid pill down her throat. Perhaps I should try her on the antibiotics if I am going to start taking her steroids. Anyway, I am feeling better after a bit of a rough weekend (camping in the rain, again, why do we do it...) and hopefully she will be too. The steroids are to soothe inflammation caused by overgrooming - translation: she has licked herself bald and it is starting to bleed.

Thanks to the soggy camping expedition and my generally feeling rough, I have done very little the last several days apart from chasing cats around the house. I have been knitting my second sock, incorporating the tips for better wraps on the short row heel that I referred to in my last post, and have turned the heel and started on the ribbing (toe-up pattern). The heel looks really great, on one side. The other side still has some holes in it, so for some reason I have been inconsistent - perhaps when I picked up the wraps? I don't know.

I am working sluggishly on a dresser scarf (a table runner destined for use on top of a dresser) for a Brown Bag Challenge in my sewing group. This is where we swapped anonymous bags of specified fabric quantities, and we all have to make a household object as requested by the donor. Our September meeting is the deadline for giving it back to the owner, so I have to get moving. The fabrics I received were all autumnal, so I have chosen a leaf pattern from a table runner book I bought in America, I will post a picture when I get my act in gear.

The weather has turned really rotten here in the UK, actually like autumn. I have been wearing my autumn clothes to work the last few days, and this morning I even went back for my fleece winter hat because the cold wind was making my head ache. It is supposed to improve a bit next week but I think summer is basically over. Still, shouldn't complain, at least we are not facing a Force 5 hurricane.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A finished sock, and applique block 11

I haven't touched my sewing machine this week, I've been feeling a little under the weather and the rain and storms haven't helped - summer seems to have disappeared again here in the UK. But I have a couple of finishes - my very first hand-knitted sock since I started learning to knit properly last winter, and applique block 11 in my red/green series of 25 blocks from the book 'My Grandmother's Last Quilt'.


I have a cheater method of doing the round berries on these blocks that may be of interest to other quilters. It's not my idea, I read it somewhere. I've bought a punch like scrapbookers use, and I punch out circles of light card. Then I gather a circle of fabric tightly around the card circle with a running stitch, spray starch the resulting 'button' and press the fabric to set the shape, then cut the thread and release the card. Then I have a perfect circle to applique to the blocks. I've found two different sizes of circle punch so far, and I am keeping my eyes peeled for more.


This is my first sock, knit using a toe-up pattern by Ann Budd in the recent issue of Interweave magazine. It uses her 'Eastern Cast-on' for the toe and features a short row heel. I've used Regia Bamboo Color sock yarn, gauge 7 stitches to the inch, on US no 2 double-pointed needles.
The pattern gives various sizes and this sock is knit to fit a size 9 (yes, I have big feet) but it isn't snug enough for my tastes, so I have reduced the number of stitches as I knit the matching sock. I am not that pleased with the short row heel - I think I followed the directions right (I even watched a video online for some of the techniques) but the yarn-over technique for the short rows has left obvious holes, particularly at the top. I was looking at a great sock site today by The Knitting Fiend and it seems these are common complaints for short row heels. She has links or tutorials to some great alternatives, including a tighter way to make the wraps which doesn't use yarn-overs, so I think I will experiment on the second sock. I've also printed off some great sock patterns from Knitty magazine's archive, thinking ahead to the next 3 sock yarns waiting in the queue. (It was two, but then I discovered you can buy sock yarn on Ebay.co.uk...)
Regarding the Regia bamboo yarn, I am pleased with the look of it but I can report that it is a little frisky. I've had a minor problem with splitting stitches, but not too bad as long as I pay attention. I have had a major problem with the skein wanting to self-destruct. On the first sock, I pulled out the centre to make a centre pull skein, but found that loops of the outer skein kept slipping free and tangling horribly around the knitting yarn, then the outer loose end got into the act. In the end, I was spending more time untangling yarn than I was knitting, so I spent a couple of hours de-tangling and winding it all into a tight ball. And darn me if the ball didn't explode the moment I took my eyes off of it (are there exorcists for yarn?) Much cursing and rewinding later, and I confined it within the elastic welt of a store-bought sock for the duration of the knitting, which made it hard to pull yarn off but kept the ball together. For the second sock, I have made a pre-emptive strike and wound the whole thing into a ball before I even started knitting, and have imprisoned that back in the store-bought sock as well. So I am the boss of the yarn (for now).

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Handbag and Chelsea Tote Part Deux



I had a fun afternoon on Thursday and ran up this handbag (or 'purse' to Americans). It was really fun to just sit down and make something creative, just because I could and because I wanted a summer handbag, not because of guilt or feeling that I have to finish off something from my extensive UFO collection. I bought the handles and hardware on my American trip, because it was way cheaper over there than here in the UK. This is my own design of bag - I didn't put any pockets inside but it is lined with coordinating fabric. I cut the last thread on Thursday, moved in my stuff from my big bag, and took it shopping in our nearby town! I took advantage of every window to admire my reflection!

I said that I would revert on how I was finding the Chelsea Tote by Lazy Girl designs (which I blogged about making on 24 June 2007). I have been using it as my main bag off and on for the summer because it is so colourful. If you recall, I expressed doubt about the square bottom because it didn't seem very comfortable as either a tote or a backpack - the small base meant that it rolls around on the back as a backpack, and sticks out when it is a tote. I have now actually removed the Bag-E-Bottom (acrylic base from Lazy Girl Designs) so that the bottom of the bag is floppy, because it was sticking into me - this makes the bag more wearable but I still think a rectangular base would be preferable. I also would prefer the straps to be attached further apart from each other on the back of the bag - they are very close together which means they cut into me under the arms when I am wearing the bag as a backpack. I think you could move them apart by another couple of inches without affecting how the bag works as a tote. Otherwise, I've been fairly happy with the bag - the loop closure works surprisingly well - the only problem I've had is when my son dumped the bag down roughly and because it was open at the top, some of the contents (my mobile phone) jumped right out of it. So it isn't as family-proof as a closed bag would be.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Piecing by Serger & Miss Lydia Pickett

I came across a magazine article on defeating negative thinking / mild depression, and one of the recommendations was to spend time on a favourite hobby - one where you completely 'lose yourself and lose track of time'. Aren't we lucky to have hobbies like that!

I've put together the rest of my Baltimore Album duvet cover - now I just need to wait for the backing fabric to turn up from America. This is what it looks like so far. I pieced this using my overlocker (serger) and I thought it might be useful to someone if I put down a few tips
about piecing on the serger. I've done two duvet covers and a couple of quilts on the serger now, so here are my tips:




  • Pros:- the serger is fast, it feeds very evenly and won't stuff the fabric down into the needle plate, running out of bobbin thread is never an issue, your seam allowances are finished (so they won't fray inside the duvet cover)


  • Cons:- the seam produced is much bulkier, maneuverability and visibility are restricted so choose simple piecing patterns, it is much more hassle to unpick if you make a mistake, it is harder to stop/start on a specific point (so difficult to do mitred corners for example).


- serging thread is thinner than normal thread, so choose a four-thread stitch for strength if you have that option. Tighten the needle tensions until stitches do not show in the seam when you pull the two pieces of fabric apart.



- take some time to set up a 1/4 inch seam - my machine has a cloth guide accessory that I can screw on for a fairly accurate seam. Do the usual test of sewing together two pieces of fabric and checking that they measure the correct width after pressing.



- disengage your knife (if you can). This will avoid unexpected holes and help to maintain the 1/4 inch seam accuracy.



- patterns with straight seams are best: e.g. Trip Round the World, Log Cabin, etc. You can piece diagonal seams if the pieces are big enough, but the serger is not a good choice for fussy patterns or lots of points.



- press the overlocked edge of the seam to reduce bulk before pressing the seam open.



- do not clip your chain of threads right to the fabric edge on seams, to avoid stitches unravelling. You can clip the ends off later as you come to them on the next seam and stitch over the junction. You can however serge strip-sets and then cut across the seams, just be careful about handling the cut pieces until the short seams are enclosed again by longer seams.



- even though your knife is disengaged, be careful about pins. If they stick out beyond the fabric edge, they will likely hang up on the cloth guide or the overlocker foot and pull the fabric crooked. I pause my stitching just before I come to the pin, and pull it out rather than risk stitching over it with the two serger needles.



- serged quilts are fine for machine quilting, but I think the bulk of the seams would make them a poor choice for hand quilting.



I finished the Miss Lydia Picket Closet kit. This is half-inch scale so the cupboard is about six inches high. There were more pieces to this kit so it took a bit longer, but all of the techniques were familiar from previous kits apart from hinging the door by inserting a metal rod between two layers of door wood. I really like how these kits come complete with everything you need to get the picture on the packet, including the door handle backing plate and all the artwork. The little picture is the 'extra' in this kit - however, the artwork duplicates that of the same picture provided as an extra in a previous kit, so now I have two of them.







This is the inside of the cupboard - the paper shoe holder hanging inside the door just boggled my mind when I first saw the picture, but actually it wasn't too hard to do if you take your time at it. I cut out each holder individually, and folded the edges using tweezers, then pressed them into a bed of white tacky glue and used the tweezers to press down the lower edge into the glue. The 'ribbon' is added after the holders have dried. I'm really pleased with the end result.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

A little bit sunburned

The sunshine is here with a vengeance now, it was 28 degrees today and I was feeling a bit car-sick from too much sun over the weekend as we drove back from a few days away camping. I visited a favourite shop of mine, C&H fabrics in Canterbury, which is a great dressmaking/knitting/crafts/haberdashery/home dec store that there don't seem to be too many of anymore here in England. I didn't buy any fabric (they don't have a very big selection of quilter's fabric) but I did pick up a beaded bracelet kit which was on sale right near the cash register where they can tempt you with an impulse buy. And I was strong and did not buy any more yarn, as I am only partway through my first sock out of three different sock yarns that I brought home from San Francisco. I admit to fondling the yarn however.

I got all the squares and sashing cut out for both a double size and single size Robert's Baltimore Album this past week. After some thought, I have decided to make the double top into a duvet cover, so I have unearthed my overlocker (serger) from under my sewing table and got it set up to do a four-thread 1/4 inch seam. I have sewn together all the rows now, just need to do some pressing and join them up. I haven't cut out the borders yet. The Robert's Baltimore Album finishes at 81" square, and I measured my current duvet cover at 83 x 85, so I am going to need to add on a bit around the edges (can't do that with the border as it is a pre-printed swag). I have ordered some wide backing from Big Horn Quilts in America, I couldn't find anything that really matched the Album fabric so have just gone with a wishy-washy tone on tone. I made a duvet cover pieced from Harry Potter fabrics for my son some years ago, and it is still going strong - the serging protects the seam allowances.

I am about halfway through my applique block number 11, which I usually work on in front of the telly, but lately I have been knitting my sock so progress on the applique has slowed down.

And finally, I have assembled my Miss Lydia Pickett closet kit and given it two coats of paint, so I just need to add the printies this week and I can post a pic. It went together quite well, once I received the sheet of photographs that should have been with the kit but wasn't - but Judith of In Some Small Way sent me a copy.

My dolls house club had a bit of a leadership coup a few months back, when the old committee basically quit (and even left the club in many cases) and a new regime took over. Under the new regime, instead of the committee purchasing or providing the kits for our 'make' each month, the members have to take turns. I suppose it is fairer to spread the work, but obviously it was very nice to just be handed a kit every month in the old days! So my two friends and I are going to do the October meeting, and my friend Pauline has put together 24 kits, which my friend Eileen bagged up, and now I get to write the instructions and produce the printies to go with each kit. We have chosen a Victorian lawn croquet set, with four mallets, a smasher, six hoops, four balls, all contained in a nice box. I hope everyone likes it.

Swooze asked if I have had any more problems with my Janome. I no longer take it out of the house and it hasn't made any more funny knocking noises. It still has the original problem of the upper thread looping and catching firmly inside the crevice next to the take-up lever, and then snapping, but I have decided to live with that. It has, however, developed a new problem which is that the presser foot doesn't want to stay raised. Sometimes I have to raise it three or four times before it 'takes' and stays up. I am living with that as well, because I am afraid that if I send it off to the shop it will develop some new and far worse problem. Other than that, it is sewing fine!

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