Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Not much going on...

I'm waiting to see if any trick-or-treaters show up, so it seems a good opportunity to update my blogs. As usual I am the most decorated house on the street, Hallowe'en is not a big holiday in the UK and, indeed, many still frown upon it. Some years I get up to 40-50 kids, other years I get 3. So far (5:45 pm) no-one, but I am sure dh will be quite willing to eat all the candy if there are leftovers.

I am toiling away at applying the hanging sleeve and binding to my 'Year in the Garden' quilt, which is the queen-size quilt that my machine quilter wants to enter into Paducah. It is just horrible trying to do the absolute best job I can on the binding and sleeve, I feel like every quilt police constable in the world is hovering just behind my shoulder watching each stitch. So far I have got the sleeve on, and all appliqued down, and all of the binding is machine attached but not yet sewn down. It took a while to fiddle with the binding seam, because the on-point sashing ends in half-cornerstones, creating definite points that the binding seam MUST cross, yet in the nature of fabric (and my worksmanship) those points are not necessarily in a straight line. So a lot of fudging going on, but the end result isn't too bad apart from one point which for no apparent reason is a good 1/4 inch higher than its neighbours, so I gave up on that one. Still lots of handsewing to do though, and the machine quilter wants it back in about three weeks.

I finished my first sock in the Ridged Feather pattern and have cast on for the second one. I am going to the first UK Stitch 'n Bitch Day up in London this weekend, so I will take my sock along to look like a 'real' knitter. I also digressed this weekend back to my 'Learn to Knit' afghan pattern, and finished off a lace square and completed most of a diagonally knit garter stitch square. I've completed 18 squares now but I think there are 65 in the book. It is in Aran weight Debbie Bliss wool, on 5mm needles, which seems enormous after all the sock-knitting I have been doing on US No.1 dpns. We had a long car drive up to Nottingham so the bigger knitting was easier to do in the moving car. On the way back down we stopped into the Fabric Guild in Leicester, a great place for cheaper fabric and notions. I hardly bought any fabric, just 3 yards of a fun backing fabric (the one with all the people waving goodbye to the steamliner passengers) which was on sale. I did stock up on Gutermann cotton thread (£1 a 100m reel) and pins (my house and vacuum cleaner seem to eat all my pins) and got my m-i-l's birthday present (batting and backing and some notions).

After a bit of dithering, I paid up for a year of basic membership to Quilter's News Network streaming internet video. I've been watching it the last year because we don't get any craft television here in the UK, but it had gotten very repetitive with little new content. Now for members they have a big library of programmes like Quilt in a Day, Fons and Porter etc. that are video-on-demand. The picture is smaller but it's great being able to watch what you want. Anyway, the exchange rate for the US dollar is so good right now that it is only about £1 a month. I had previously subscribed to 'The Quilt Show' with Ricky Timms and Alex Anderson, which I think will run out in March 08. I don't really like it so far, but I know they are working to improve the content in response to viewer feedback, I will see how it goes.

Ooo! I just had my first trick-or-treater - a little ghoul whom I rewarded by offering him two candy bars. That only leaves 73 for my dh - no - 72 because I ate one when I got home (I bought three bags of 25 candy bars, ever the optimist)...

Friday, 26 October 2007

Catching Up

Suddenly it is almost a week since I last posted, don't know where the time is going... well, I do, it's going into work and into my dollhouse that I am building, plus ds has been on half term break this week.

I had a bit of a shock today - I went to see a consultant about this persistent scab I've had on my nose for months, and he took one look and says it all needs to be cut out and a skin graft applied. Apparently it is something commonly known as a 'rodent ulcer' or basal cell carcinoma, but he must have noticed my face turning white because he quickly said that they are not the bad kind of skin cancer. But left to itself it will just keep getting bigger and eat away the nose (lovely...), and it is pretty big already, about the size of a quarter will have to be cut away I think (gulp). He took a biopsy under local anesthetic right then, and I have to wait a few weeks for the result, but then it will likely be plastic surgery to remove it. Apparently the skin graft, if needed, will come from somewhere else on my body like my neck. The cause is sun exposure so now my ds said that he is going to be reminding me about sun cream all the time. I should have gone in ages ago, but I kept thinking it would heal on its own.




Anyway, when I am not working on the dollshouse, I have been doing a few other things. I've made a patchwork Christmas stocking for the #Quiltchat stocking swap (I don't think the recipient reads my blog so I think I am ok to post a pic).


















I've also made up the crochet tote bag from the kit that was the free gift at the Rowan fashion show I went to at Alexandra Palace a few weeks ago. I'm terrible at crochet, very poor tension and it hurts my hand, but the bag turned out ok.




My other big news is that I have booked my flights to go to Chicago in April for two weeks. The first week I will be attending the Tom Bishop international dollshouse and miniatures fair (and taking two classes) and the second week I will be attending the Chicago International quilt show. So that is something to look forward to.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Applique group pictures

You may remember that I was taking part in a group project of four people, where we each chose a picture, traced a pattern, cut the pattern into four slices, and gave a slice to each other person to replicate in fabric? Today at my sewing club I was able to take a picture of two of the unfinished applique pictures.


This is the portrait of one of the early black visitors to Britain that my friend Pauline chose. I did the slice of eye on the left. The person next to me chose a significantly lighter fabric and did a rather large staring eye. Eileen did the ear, and Pauline did the writing (scanned and printed on her computer). Pauline was a bit at a loss when she first got all the pieces back, because the middle piece of eye was so mismatched. After thinking about it for a while, she embroidered a lot of detail, including to adjust the staring eye, and used embroidery stitches and fabric paint to blend the head pieces all together into a convincing portrait.




Eileen had chosen an impressionistic painting (Monet?) of a snowy farm. Her four pieces looked pretty good apart from the piece next to mine (mine is the left hand piece again by coincidence) wasn't quite accurate and didn't entirely line up. Eileen adjusted some of the mismatch and appliqued another cloud in the sky to blend the pieces more. I think she is also going to add some embroidery but she hasn't yet.




I got back my third Venice piece finally today, so now I just need to make my fourth piece and then I will be able to take a pic of those as well. The fourth picture, of the Belgian houses, isn't finished yet and Angela hadn't brought her pieces so I couldn't take a picture of them.


This was a really enjoyable exercise that really required creativity and a bit of an artistic eye, to 'paint' with fabric to match the colours in the photographs. Now that the group have seen how we did it, some of the other ladies want to have a go as well, so we may repeat the project in 2008.


Oh, and the lady that I made the autumn tablerunner for in the Brown Bag challenge has now told me that she absolutely loves it and that it looks great on her dresser. So that is good.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

I am quilting, really!

I feel guilty that this blog appears to be turning into a knitter's blog lately, and I don't want to get kicked out of the quilter's club. To be honest, I have done very little sewing lately because I am spending all my free time working on my big Willowcrest dollshouse project. But I have put the binding on my Civil War lap quilt which is now finished.


I have my Saturday quilting club this weekend and I am planning to put the sleeve and binding onto my 'Year in the Garden' top there - we meet in a church hall with nice big tables, so it will be easier and also there will be less cat hair to get on the quilt top. I am also taking my camera and have asked the other applique ladies to bring in their 4-part pictures so I can take a pic for my blog. As for mine, I have STILL not received the fourth part of my Venetian picture nor my challenge tablerunner. Some people seem to find the concept of a deadline hard to comply with, no matter how many times you remind the group and tell them when things are supposed to be done by. I have made a mental resolution to not launch any more group projects which rely on other people giving you things - I think for the next while we will stick to self-make projects like BOMs and mystery quilts. My ladies have asked for a BOM for our next project in the New Year, so I may have to actually fire up EQ6 for the first time since installing it last Christmas, and get designing something. We always have a problem with group projects since there is a very firm split between the majority who will use a sewing machine, and the minority who hate them and want to do everything by hand. There is also the split between those who love applique/hate piecing, another lady who hates applique, and the majority who don't care. You can't please everyone all the time. My husband listens to me feeling frustrated about this, and his solution is that I should just kick the non-believers out of the group. Men always have very simple (unworkable) solutions to problems.


I am displaying my seaside wallhanging in our stairwell where I can enjoy it every time I go downstairs. I don't think I showed a pic of how the old church tower in the picture completely took on a new life after I had quilted it (and this was so easy to do on the frame).
We are enjoying some glorious autumn days now, brilliant sunshine but temperatures cool enough that I want to wear a hat in the mornings (but then I am a wimp). This is my favourite time of year, when the air is crisp and the leaves are turning such gorgeous colours. Apparently there is a national pumpkin shortage in the UK after all the floods and the wet summer, but I have managed to secure two small ones and have stashed them in the knitting shed in preparation for Hallowe'en.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Champagne at Alexandra Palace

I had an enjoyable but exhausting four hours today at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace (a large Victorian exhibition venue in north London). This is a huge show with an emphasis on knitting (and not just socks, but cutting edge showcases from fashion colleges and artists etc.) and covering many other fibre arts such as lacemaking, braiding, spinning, felting, dying, quilting, etc. etc. etc. There is a large hall full of artists displaying their latest work, some of it for sale, other fibre exhibitions, Quilt 2007 (an art quilt display), another large hall with many of the fibre associations such as the Lacemakers' Circle, the Lace Guild, the Ring of Tatters, Machine Knitters Guild and many others, and a huge hall full of shopping opportunities. I dropped into the Ring of Tatters' stall because I am a member, and admired the 1/12th dollshouse displays of a hat shop with every hat decorated with tatting, and a florist's shop where all the flowers were tatting. At the Machine Knitters Guild, they were able to tell me about a few machine knitting groups that are still running, and one of them is about 25 minutes from me so I might try a visit next month. In fact, the lady thought that machine knitting is starting to pick up again, on the back of the hand knitting trend, because she has had several people asking where they can buy a machine.



The show runs for four days and also offers book-ahead workshops and fashion shows. I went to the Rowan fashion show which featured garments from several of their booklets and from Issue 42 of the magazine, and we received an unexpected goodie bag! Amongst the promotional literature inside were some balls of cotton yarn and a pattern for a tote bag to make. I enjoyed the show but why do they have to blare the music so loud that it was actually paining my ear? (god I'm getting old...)

The shopping area also featured large displays by some of the yarn companies, magazine publishers, embroidery companies etc., some with drop-in teaching areas. I headed straight for the shopping before and after my fashion show, and kept finding sock yarn which got cheaper at every stall. I started out at the top end with some Lorna's hand-dyed, then found the Cherry Tree Hill stand and got two more colours of Supersock Merino, then found another shop doing three balls of sock yarn for a special price, and finished up at a Scandinavian trader selling sock yarn for £1.60 a ball! I also got some more dpns, and some straight bamboo needles, and stocked back up on machine needles (Schmetz quilting) after breaking several when I was learning to use my frame. I also fell off the wagon and subscribed to a knitting magazine because they were doing the first three issues for £1 and I couldn't resist.




I tottered out in complete exhaustion about 2 p.m. and made my way to the Champagne Bar which was supposedly being run by the London Stitch 'n Bitch group. I didn't see any of them, unless they were amongst the big group of teenagers learning how to knit, but I did enjoy a cool glass of bubbly and knit some more rows on my Ridged Feather sock. I am absolutely loving the colours of this self-striping yarn (Regia Cotton Colour), I might try to model a quilt after them. The yarn itself is a bit splitty, but I am enjoying seeing the pattern emerge. And there is something quite civilised about sitting in the Palm Court of the Alexandra Palace, sipping chilled champagne as you peacefully hand knit.


Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Sock Finish


I finished my Widdershins socks! The second one fits better with the higher heel flap and also I think that using the no-cable-needle method made the crossovers slightly looser. I really like them. I've cast on already for my next pair, which is the Ridged Feather sock on p70 of 'Sensational Socks' by Charlene Schurch, using Regia Cotton Color. I am getting 7 stitches to the inch on No1 US dpns, which may be too loose but I hope not. That's the sock yarn I bought on Ebay, and it is really pretty. I can't post a pic yet because I've only knit two rows.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

New Blog on Greenleaf Willowcrest

I've started a new blog to document my big new project: I am assembling a Greenleaf Willowcrest dollshouse kit. This will be of no interest whatsoever to anyone who isn't planning to do this themselves, so I have started a new blog at http://mywillowcrestblog.blogspot.com/ to keep the posts separate. It will mean that I have less spare time to do other crafty things, but it's got too be done, I've been procrastinating for four years on this kit.

This morning I took the charity quilts, bunnies and rag doll over to Peggy, who is 91 years old and who runs an annual coffee morning / quilt sale to raise funds for her local hospice. She used to be in my sewing group about 10 years ago and is still sewing away. What a marvel. She lives with her daughter now that she is a widow. She was very pleased and I got a thank you kiss on my cheek and was told how kind I am - isn't that sweet. I feel guilty because I wanted to make all those things anyway and it is convenient for me to have somewhere useful to give them to, but at least they are going to a good cause and Peggy was very pleased.

I'm almost finished my second cabled sock, I'm just knitting the top ribbing - will post a pic once it's done.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

A potpourri

I am feeling a bit peculiar today after being up all night, the night before last, with food poisoning. I've lost five pounds in two days and feel sort of fragile and empty (which I am!) but on the mend now. Today I have actually had some tomato soup whch seems to have settled okay, yesterday I only managed some dry bread.

I have a nice package to take round on the weekend to the elderly lady who is running the charity coffee morning in November. It includes a printed-panel rag doll, the three cot quilts (now all bound) and my no-longer-nekkid rabbits. The girl bunny seems to be showing off rather more than I intended, but you know what rabbits are like.

I started binding the three cot quilts shortly after a discussion on #Quiltchat when Swooze expressed her preference for self-binding (bringing the backing around to the front). I tried this on the first cot quilt to see if it would be easier, but I really found that it wasn't - for me anyhow. It was incredibly fiddly to trim off the wadding without cutting the backing (especially since I had started some of the quilting stitching from off the edge of the top, and because I had meandered all over the quilt, the edge was no longer completely straight, and then more fiddling to press the fold, bring the fold over and secure it with clips, and don't get me started about trying to get neat corners. I ended up hand stitching the four corners. For my second quilt, I tried a modified continuous binding which I found much easier. I trimmed the sides of the quilt square, and cut strips 1 and 3/4 inches wide which I joined on the diagonal into a continuous strip. I applied this on the back of the quilt by machine, starting with a 1/4 inch fold to the wrong side, and doing the usual mitre thing on the corners. I finished by overlapping the original folded start by about one inch then trimming off the excess end. Then I pressed this binding away from the quilt. Turning it over the right side, I pressed the raw edge of the binding in to meet the quilt edge, then folded that fold over onto the right side of the quilt and secured with clips. The corners were easy to mitre neatly. Then I stitched on the right side by machine close to the folded edge of the binding, which was easy to do because of the wider-than-normal binding on the front. I obtained a much neater result and for me this seemed easier. I used a walking foot by the way. The third quilt had a non-fraying fleece backing, so that was easy, I just folded it over to the right side and stitched it down with a decorative stitch.

I was listening to a podcast interview with Alex Andersen a few days ago (Annie's Stash) and heard Alex say something which I've heard her say before on her own podcasts: that she's never met a quilter she didn't like, and that quilters are all such wonderful people. Every time I have heard her say that, it has made me think about this myth prevalent amongst the Americanised quilting world, that because we are all quilters we are all one big happy family full of lightness and brightness. Maybe it is because on my best day I am not one-tenth as perky as Alex Andersen (though I do like her) but I have met many quilters that I didn't like. Just because we are all involved in aspects of a wide-ranging textile hobby does not automatically make us all sympatico, or honest, or fair, or polite, or nice. Like any other human activity, quilting draws from a broad cross-section of society and I am sure there are lots of quilters who aren't particularly nice people, or who have not very nice beliefs or habits. I think Alex's comment says more about the kind of person she is, and perhaps anyone encountering such a bubbly cheerful personality is momentarily uplifted into responding in a similar way. I have certainly found that having quilting in common with someone gives me a jumping off point for relating to them, but it isn't a sure-fire guarantee that I am going to like them. But then I think we have more than our fair share of Quilt Police in the UK (city and guilds, anyone....?).

I also managed to get the binding on my Seaside wallhanging, and it is now hanging on the wall to remind us of summer holidays. My possible Paducah entry is lurking about, waiting for me to feel brave enough to start the binding process (and I have to make a sleeve) but it doesn't have to be shipped back until late November so I am putting it off until I feel better. I'm still not sure how I am going to do the stitching without getting cat hair on it. Or my hair for that matter (I have a shedding problem...)

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