Saturday, 28 February 2009

Pictures at last

We made it home safely, after a couple of enjoyable days in San Francisco. I am still trying to recover from jet lag: Thursday night I woke up at 1:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep again at all. Today (Saturday) I am still feeling groggy and tired. I've taken the photos off the camera and I thought you would be interested in finally getting to see some of the things I've been talking about.

- a Mai Tai with an umbrella in it as the sun goes down: now we're talking. I enjoyed many of these over the holiday.

- One of the many magnificent Hawaiian quilts we saw at the Waimea quilt show on Oahu. Sorry it is sideways, my image program has given up the ghost.

The entertainers at the Waimea quilt show, apparently these two ladies have been coming to the show for something like 20 years to play and sing.

- Kaffe Fassett talking about the snowball quilt during the workshop.

- Kaffe Fassett (left) and Brandon Mably during one of the lectures.

-sideways view of my quilt design from the first workshop (will be a snowball quilt)

- sideways view of my quilt design from the second workshop - I don't like this one very much, and the border fabric was Brandon's suggestion, I'm not too sure about it. Although it is a lot tamer than a lot of the other quilts from the workshop (all made with Kaffe fabric).

- my first finished sock (with Waikiki beach in the background). This is the Potpourri sock from "Knitting with handpainted yarn"

- sunset over Waikiki Beach

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

All good things come to an end

This is our last night in San Francisco - it is raining hard outside but it isn't cold, about 67 degrees F. We got in last night after an uneventful flight from Hawaii - I started my second sock and today I have knit down about an inch and a half of the cuff. Today we got on the Caltrain and went down to Santa Clara to see the Winchester Mystery House which seemed like a good rainy day thing to do. And it was, a crazy gingerbread monstrosity which the spirits told the Winchester heiress to build, full of doors that open onto walls, windows in the floor, staircases that go nowhere, and many gorgeous Tiffany art glass windows. We took both tours and had a fun half day there (apart from lunch in the cafe which was dreadful). On the way back we got off the train at Hillsdale and walked around the mall, then had supper there before heading back to our hotel near the airport. Tomorrow we are going to try to get up early (although it is hard because Hawaii time is two hours earlier I think) and head in to see the De Young museum which Kaffe and Brandon recommended, then head over to Imagiknit, before coming back to the airport for our night flight home.

On our last day in Honolulu, we had a lovely lie in, packed our bags up, then wandered down the Waikiki beach, shopping, exploring the oldest hotel there which had a fun little museum of its heyday in the early 20th century, and ending up down near Diamond Head on a pier where intrepid people were boogie board surfing in on the waves, which looked like a lot of fun and much more do-able than normal surfing. Maybe next time... We were asking ourselves if we will come back. It is a very long way to come for us, from the UK, and the weather didn't really cooperate. We didn't love the really touristy districts of Honolulu or Kailua-Kona, but then we didn't love the fairly undeveloped areas on Kauai either. I guess we are looking for a middle ground, natural beauty combined with understated development, and a warm sandy beach nearby, with a nice beachside cafe. So not much then. Brandon said that Maui is really nice, we didn't get there this trip so perhaps that is one to explore in future.

I took loads of photos of details of the Winchester Mystery House and some of its antique furniture, all useful reference material for dollshouse building. I love all that wooden trim and gingerbread, the fishscale shingles and the turned spindles. I also picked up another fridge magnet for my collection of resin 3-D house magnets, a model of the Winchester house. In Hillsdale we went to a Barnes and Noble bookstore and I had a great time going through all the craft books - surprisingly there were about 3 times as many knitting books as there were quilting books, a sign of the times? I picked up some quilting and knitting magazines to read on the plane on the way home. I am having trouble with the 50 pound weight limit for the suitcase, I have been a few pounds over the last few flights even though I put all the heavy fabric in a bag for DH to carry. I suppose it is a sign of my mental illness that I was contemplating throwing out a pair of trousers that are a bit tight on me, to cut down on weight and to leave more room for yarn and fabric.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

It truly is a small world

Yesterday, having finished our two days of workshops, our group went on a bus tour of the south part of the island of Kauai, to go up to Waimea Canyon. On the way back, we made a comfort stop at a small gift shop / coffee bean stand in the middle of nowhere, to use the restrooms. I was queuing up for icecream when a girl approached me and called me by name, and said "I'm your niece". Unbelievably, my brother, his wife, and their four kids were all there, visiting from western Canada. I haven't seen my brother for 10 years, and haven't communicated with him for about 8 years (we are a dysfunctional family) and I vividly remember his proud boasting on my last visit to see him 10 years ago, that he was a tightwad and didn't believe in wasting money on holidays (they camp a lot). Yet there they all were. And what are the odds? not only that they would decide to come to Hawaii at the same time as I had flown there all the way from the UK, but to be on the same island, and to have stopped at the same little gift shop in the 15 minute window that I was there. We didn't have time to do more than exchange a few shocked words and snap some photos. I was stunned by how unfamiliar my brother looked, I think I was mentally imagining that he would look like my Dad as he got older, but he didn't at all. In fact, I think I could have walked by him on the street and not recognised him. So it was all a pretty big shock. And of course the kids are all grown up since I last saw them (two of them are way taller than me now). They all looked pretty shocked as well. I got back on my bus and felt this wave of real shock wash over me, because it was all so sudden and over so quickly.

We are now on Honolulu, and I am sitting on my hotel balcony looking out over some grotty rooftops at Waikiki beach and people surfing in as the sun goes down. The weather has stayed cool and breezy so we weren't tempted to go swimming, but at least it isn't raining here like it was (hard) on Kauai. We spent the afternoon wandering the tourist traps of the Waikiki area. Tomorrow is our free day and we are planning to get the bus to the Bishop Museum where there are some antique Hawaiian quilts as well as other artefacts. There are loads of "Hawaiian" quilts and quilted gift items in the souvenir shops, but from the poor quality of the fabric I am pretty sure most of them are from China. I enjoyed seeing authentic quilts at the show we went to on the big island. I have bought a few patterns but it would be so truly time consuming to applique an entire bed quilt.

I've bought loads of fabric. Most of it is nothing special, just stuff I liked, but I did go back to Kapaia Stitchery and bought 9 pieces of batik to make something with. Today we went to Fabric Mart in Honolulu which was all cheap stuff but I got some fun panels to make vests and stuffed toys. I also got a nice t-shirt today with a quilt pattern on it.

Sunday we will be heading for home, via San Francisco again. I'm hoping to get to Imagiknit (a great yarn shop) when we are there. I'm starting to feel that it will be nice to get home, and stop having to eat out all the time (although it is nice not to have to cook).

Oh, and I finished my first sock on the plane today. This is the Potpourri sock from 'Knitting with Hand Painted Yarn'. It's in pretty wild colours which I think are Koigu, the type of yarn which Kaffe described as 'vomit in the wind' when he was giving a lecture and talking about his new sock yarn which changes colours much more slowly. He and I were knitting in Starbucks at the airport, also one of his other friends, and Brandon was doing needlepoint, so we were like a craft corner for an hour or so. It was like a knitting group and felt very comfortable until we had to move along to the departure gate.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Coconut Coast

We are now on Kaua'i, a very lush island where movies like Jurassic Park have been filmed, and we are staying on the Coconut (east) coast which has fabulous plantations of tall coconut trees just like something out of an Elvis movie. Unfortunately the weather is not very Hollywood, it is extremely windy and has rained off and on today, so not very pleasant for sitting outside by the pool. Luckily we have spent the day inside for the first of our workshops: designing a snowball quilt. I was in Kaffe Fassett's class, and Brandon Mably was teaching the other class. They were both so nice, and encouraging, and found something good to say about everyone's quilt - even the people who had not followed the class requirements and had 'wrong' fabric or a white design wall. Kaffe and Brandon both say white is the worst colour to design on, because the colours of the prints fight with the white, and the white shines through in the gaps between patches and distracts. They recommend taupe or cream - mine is a sort of biscuit dough colour which Kaffe said was also good. We started by quickly placing our 6-inch squares up on the wall, before standing back at a distance to see how they were working together. After finessing the squares to achieve a homongenous look where nothing was fighting with other squares, then the cornerstones between the blocks were added. The cornerstones were just left as squares for the purposes of designing, but when we sew we will have to cut 3 more squares for each junction then sew across diagonally to create the snow balls. I was afraid I had all the wrong fabric, as I had brought blue and white prints none of which are 'Kaffe' fabrics, but Kaffe and Brandon both loved my prints and my quilt. I had loads of china plates and teacups and prints that look like china, and used a range of old gold cornerstones. I don't have a border yet, K & B say they always design their quilt centre first before choosing a border. Kaffe suggests a blue and white large scale toile, so I will have to look for one when we get to the next fabric shop in Honolulu.

I have to tell you about the truck we rented on Sunday, which was absolutely hilarious. They had described it on the phone as a 14'x8' truck, and we took it because there was nothing else available. I was picturing a covered pick up truck. So we went to the airport to pick it up, filled out all the paperwork, and the guy goes to get this truck. He drives up in a Moving Van! The 14x8 was the size of the box! It even had a motorised platform at the back which went up and down on hydraulics. We were just killing ourselves laughing, and DH was very freaked out about driving this monster even though it was an automatic gearbox. But he did absolutely great, we put on over 200 miles driving up to Hapune beach, then south to a great historical park with the island's best snorkelling spot next door, then all the way around to the volcano park. There wasn't a lot of room in the cab so we had to keep opening up the back to get at our swimming gear etc. It was a great joke for people when we stopped at places, they would ask if we were moving house then when we explained we were just tourists, they were calling friends over to share the joke. It made for a good conversation starter anyhow. The snorkelling was amazing, there was a sea turtle right at the shore where we got in, I even touched it, and we saw another one just a few yards out. I had only snorkelled once before, but really enjoyed it. I seem to float really well - at last this baby fat is coming in useful and making me buoyant.

We have met some Hawaiian quilters, as Kaffe has given two talks which have been open to local quilters. One resident was saying that it is frustrating for them as they only have a few small quilt shops, and not many instructors come to the islands. We were taken to quite a small shop in Waimea on Hawaii, and here in Lihue we are being supported by the nice ladies of Kapaia Stitchery, a medium size shop. Both shops have had a wide selection of what they call Hawaiian batiks, which look like normal batiks to me except that they have far more of them than I have seen in other quilt shops, with a bias towards naturalistic and marine designs. They have a lot of solids which I guess they use for traditional Hawaiian quilts, but relatively few 'normal' print fabrics like you would normally see in quilt stores on the mainland. Great if you like making batiks or traditional Hawaiian quilts, not so great if you want to do something else. I haven't bought batiks yet but I may before I go. I did buy some touristy prints of sea turtles and fishes and whales (we saw whales out at sea from Hapune beach) to make a memory quilt.

Thank you for all the comments, it is much appreciated. I don't normally get many comments (I always think that I write too much, and people are too exhausted after reading it to leave comments) so it was great to feel that you are all with me on this holiday. Aloha!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Don't hate me

I am now on holiday, and I hesitate to tell you where. When DH told his boss, his boss promptly told him to "F.... off" (they are friends). I suppose for my American readers, this won't be such a big deal, but to Brits who had just finished digging themselves out of the unexpected snowfall, it was like a slap in the face. We are in.... (whispering, dramatic pause) HAWAII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I am on my dream holiday, which I booked over a year ago, naively thinking "it will be half price, there are $2 to the pound!". Needless to say, that part hasn't worked out. But here we are, we arrived on Wednesday night after breaking our journey for one night in San Francisco . It's now Saturday and we are finally over our jet lag (10 hour time difference, so I kept waking up in the middle of the night). I am on a quilting tour with Travelling Together, and we are accompanied by Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably. In fact, I have just been swimming in the hotel's private surf lagoon with Kaffe and Brandon, and afterwards we were chatting about knitting and about Rowan. DH held Kaffe's hand for several minutes for the blessing ceremony to open the quilt show in Waimea that we visited today. I told him that some women would never wash their hand again. In fact, the level of Kaffe worship is a bit staggering - in his opening lecture when he asked for questions, one woman stood up and said "I've loved you for 30 years: will you marry me?". Kaffe looked a bit taken aback at that one.

Tomorrow we are hiring a car, because all the tourist excursions are fabulously expensive and we figured we might as well use the money and be able to go where we want. Only for some reason there are no cars to be had (I called every agency in the book) so we have ended up with a truck. DH is already freaking out about driving on the wrong side of the road, so hopefully this truck is not going to be too big. Wish us luck...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Endlessly cleaning

We are going on holiday soon, and my in-laws are coming to live in our house while we are gone. This has necessitated a major overhaul in order to beat the clutter into submission and clean up the worst dirt havens. The best thing has been having an Oven Cleaning firm in. In 90 minutes on Friday they restored my oven and its racks to like-new pristine sparkle, which I vaguely remember from when the realtor showed us around the house five years ago. You can actually see in through the glass pane now, something I don't think we've been able to do for a very long time. It was two nice Polish gentlemen (there are a lot of Poles working in the UK) and I only wish they also did housecleaning. I did try to get something similar arranged for our bathrooms, but then the snow arrived last Monday grinding the country to a halt and the firm I contacted never called me back.

My son had two snow days as his school was closed, and I had to work from home on Monday as there was no public transport. I think we only had about 6-8 inches of snow, but that is the most in this area for 18 years and the infrastructure just can't cope. Very few people have snow chains down here, or even know how to drive in snow, public transport was suspended so nobody could get to work, leading to mass closures of retail stores etc. and even threatening hospitals and other essential services. Meanwhile we went out and made a snowman while my son enjoyed the most snow he has seen in his lifetime apart from the one time he went on a school ski trip. Luckily we had just bought the snow boots for his next school ski trip, so he was well equipped.

Long term readers of this blog will remember that I changed jobs last year and haven't been too thrilled with the new one. Ironically, there is now the possibility that my job may be in jeopardy, as a reorganisation is cutting four jobs out of 17. Some jobs may be changed significantly and those in them will have to re-apply for them. We are supposed to find out in March if our job is affected, although I will be amazed if my generally slow-moving company manages to act that fast. I have mixed feelings about all of this, the possibility of change opens up some light at the end of the tunnel that something good may come of it, but on the other hand I don't want to lose my job given what's going on with the economy these days. I'll keep you posted.

So what have I been doing, in between cleaning bathrooms and building snowmen? I enjoyed the Ardingly quilt show but it isn't really very big, we were scheduled to have five hours there and I felt quite done after two which was a bit tedious. There was a nice exhibit of quilts made from jelly rolls which I quite liked, I always think 'I could cut strips from my stash and not have to buy a jelly roll', not that I ever get around to doing that. I was quite tempted by several cute jelly rolls but they were generally priced at £25 (about $34) which is too much for me. Although it's a lot better now that the exchange rate has dropped, before, the equivalent was about $50 which was really annoying when I get American fabric shop newsletters touting them for $25. In fact I wondered on the way to the show if prices would have really gone up, since most stock is imported from the States and the exchange rate has dropped so much, but surprisingly prices seemed about the same. Fat quarters were still £2.50, sale yardage was generally £5/metre, although I saw some at £4 and £3. I know you just want to know what I bought, so here we go: a pack of FQs as a gift for a friend, a Micro Stitch tool and some packs of tags, an acrylic template of nested circles (so I will never have to paw through my cupboard looking for round things to trace around again), some of the £3 yardage in 30s colourways, some Wondertape (doublesided tape that washes away, great for sticking things in place until you can sew them down, like zippers), some spare needles, and, and, I'm sure there is something else but I can't remember.

The MicroStitch tool is for my latest great wheeze of an idea. Remember I have a couple of single tops that I decided weren't going to work on my frame, because they don't suit 4-inch-wide band quilting? Well, now I am going to put them on the frame anyway, and tack them into a sandwich with the Microstitch tool! No more clamping to a table, and no more sore fingers from 100s of safety pins. I will just tack the layers then take the sandwich off the frame to be quilted on the machine at my leisure (once the machine is off the frame). I finished quilting the landscape picture and took it off the frame, but haven't had time to load another top, and now the frame is buried anyway in all the clutter that we are hiding in the bedroom to make it look like we live like normal people in the rest of the house.

I took DH's tie along to knit on the coach on the way to Ardingly, but discovered that about 8 inches ago I had miscounted a decrease so that the central 'spine' of the tie was now off centre. So I had to rip back to there and re-knit. I am now past that point and on the long straight bit. Who knew how long guys' ties are?? I feel like I am knitting a rope or something. I held it up to DH and it goes up his front and partway around his neck, so I have ages to go yet. I haven't done much on Hey Teach, I am now doing the 1x1 ribbing at the waistline.

At the knitting evening at the I-knit shop on Thursday, I made a start on a new pair of socks that I will be taking with me on the holiday as holiday knitting (this is what I am like: my house is not yet ready for the in-laws, I have not yet packed - but I have planned and started my holiday knitting project...). They are the Potpourri socks from 'Knitting Socks from Handpainted yarns'. The cuff has a knitted-in hem, the first time I have done that with hand knitting although it is a fairly common technique with machine knitting. I have some gorgeous sock yarn but I'm not sure I have enough, the yardage is a lot less than called for in the pattern. Let's just hope the pattern yardage is excessive or I may end up with one and a half socks.

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