Saturday, 28 May 2011

To paraphrase Piglet: "Look at me! I'm quilting!!!"

Yes, the 12-foot-Beast is operational and we have lift off!  (or should that be 'quilt off'?) Last Sunday after I got back from knitting at the pub, I loaded on my first quilt and started my learning curve.  I decided to go first with the twin size Daisy Trellis that I made earlier in the year.  My party piece from using my first frame is a large meander stitch which is perfect for this type of busy quilt where the quilting lines aren't going to show very much.

So I loaded it up and started stitching, and did an hour or so of stitching each night after work, and finished it Thursday night!  I've gotten used to the heavier feel of the carriage and steering is going fairly well.  The Pfaff Hobby Grand Quilter seems like a real work horse although it is slightly pernickety about how it is threaded - the smallest thing left out and it goes wrong, it also wasn't too sure about tension for a while.  For the first quilt I used a variety of cotton threads in the top before my order of threads arrived from Cotton Patch in Birmingham.  I found the bobbins hold a lot less than my Janome 6500 and I was having to change bobbins about every 1.5 passes which was a bit annoying.  So I switched to Bottom Line in the bottom and King Tut in the top, and like magic it all started behaving. Here's a pic of the finished quilt.

So Thursday night I loaded up my second quilt, going with the Hawaiaan Potpourri Quilt as it is another busy quilt that would suit meandering.  I went even bigger with the meander on this one.  I used Bottom Line in the bobbin again, but went with a variegated YLI thread on top.  I couldn't believe how much fluff the YLI thread generated in the bobbin area, mega fluff compared to the King Tut, I had to clean it out several times.  I also had more trouble with the tension, but that may have been because I used a batik fabric on the backing.  I switched up to a 100 Schmetz (?) Sharp needle which brought the tension up to an acceptable level, but I also had to tighten up the top tension considerably compared to the King Tut.

And I finished that one on Saturday afternoon.  The new poles are working really well, but one of the homemade rachets has given out, luckily the opposite end is still holding.

I emptied all the waiting tops off of my back-of-the-door rack (which was collapsing under the weight) and I have an embarrassing number, about another 6 or 7 after these two, and some of them are absolutely huge.  I have no idea what I was thinking, making king-size quilts.  Luckily I had recently won £50 of Hobbycraft vouchers in a competition, so we went over there today and I bought four more packs of Poly-Down wadding which I quite like.  I wanted to get more Hobb's Heirloom Wadding as well, because I am down to two packs, but they were out so I may have to mail order again.  I've also got a fair bit of work ahead of me to get all the tops ready for quilting, with a backing prepared or pieced as required.

I am also in denial about all the binding I will have to sew on.

Meanwhile, on the knitting front...

I was working on the second sleeve of the Liesl cardigan at the pub last weekend, and having a lot of trouble getting the lace pattern to match up with the body pattern.  I looked at my first finished sleeve to see how I had done it there, only to discover that I hadn't and it is completely wrong.  So instead of being almost finished, I now have to finish the second sleeve then rip out the first sleeve and knit it again.  I'm about halfway through the second sleeve.

Meanwhile, things are not going smoothly on my Cookie A Sunshine Sock.  Armed with the corrected charts, I got as far as knitting the heel flap then tried it on to see how deep the flap needed to be.  Although I have been loving this smooshy Colinette Jitterbug yarn, it is quite fluffy, and I was disappointed to discover the combination of fat yarn and a very textured cable lace pattern was about the most unflattering thing I could possibly put on my ankle.  It made my ankles look like tree trunks.  So I thought, ok, I could make fingerless gloves instead.  But it even made my wrists look bad, plus the tube was too loose.  So I accepted my fate, and ripped it all out.  Again.  I have now cast on with white Cherry Tree Hill, which to my eye looks a bit thinner than the Jitterbug, so hopefully I will get a nice delicate lace rather than a woollen version of a truck tire tread.

I am still knitting away on the Vertical Garter Stitch edging for my Learn to Knit Afghan.  I discovered at knitting group that 'afghan' is apparently not a familiar word in the UK.  They had seen the word on American knitting patterns so they knew what it meant.  I don't think there is a word in Britain with the same connotations of a knitted/crocheted blanket.  Interesting.  I've switched from increasing using 'Knit front and back in the same stitch' as recommended in the book, to making one stitch from the bar between the stitches of the previous row, as I found I was getting a little row of holes up one side of the scallop with the previous method.  I'm not re-knitting the first several feet though.

I've pressed on with my applique block for the UFO challenge.  It's been so long since I did needleturn applique that I've lost my edge a bit.  I've done the central rose but I need to go back and rip out and re-do one of the bud cases which came out crooked. Still, I feel virtuous as I've already done more on it this week than I have for several months.

I think it should be safe to blog my I-Knit Sock Club package, because I think everyone should have received theirs by now.  So here it is.  The patterns are for lacy socks or lacy fingerless mitts, the yarn is tomato red and gorgeously smooshy, and the gifts are a custom project bag and a little sachet of Eucalan.  A lovely treat to me to receive in the post.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Almost quilting

I've put in a lot of work this week on converting/upgrading my Next Generation machine quilting frame.  Lots of drilling, sawing, sanding, gluing etc.  And even some sewing to make the leaders (fabric bits attached to the poles).  And I think I am just about there.  I think it is going to work although I haven't quite got to the testing part yet.

Sheathing one of the original poles in a metal tube, screwed to it for stability, made such a huge difference.  If you shake one of the original poles, it has about two inches of play.  The reinforced pole barely moves and if you shake it, the whole frame shakes.

But the real work was completely replacing two of the poles.  I carved end plugs out of the wooden dowels I ordered, and glued them into the ends of the metal tubes, so that I could suspend them from threaded rod. I improvised new end caps from wooden toy wheels with cork glued to them, so that I could avoid using the horrible ratchets on the two key poles:  the take-up roller and the backing roller.  I've left the ratchets on the quilt top roller and batting roller as I will just leave them in neutral.

Anyway, I'm conscious that the above three paragraphs are just gibberish if you are a knitting or dollshousing reader, so basically I am almost quilting!  Just need to power up the machine again, oil it, and adjust the levels of the poles to try out the little test sandwich I've started to load up.  And it's only taken a month.  I pointed out to my husband that I was obviously not going to get the 12-foot frame out of the living room within a month like I originally promised.  He frowned and said that I had better get it out of there by Christmas so that we have room for the tree - what a sweetie!  It really is in the way as well.

So what else have I been doing?  I have been knitting several feet of the Vertical garter edging for my Learn to Knit Afghan and am about half-way through now.  It's starting to get a bit bulky for carrying around in my knapsack.  It was a good mindless project to take to the London Kensington Dollshouse Festival last week though.  I had a good time and bought several 1/24th scale accessories for the Greenleaf Fairfield house that I am building, plus a 1/12th scale castle-shaped teapot for my teapot collection.  They were also showing some films about miniatures, so I watched some of those while knitting on my garter edging.

I've also finished the part-knit sleeve on my Liesl Cardigan and started to pick up for the second sleeve.

I've had good intentions to keep working on Project Number Five from my quilting group's UFO Challenge, which is an applique block.  But I just find that the light isn't good enough in the living room - god I sound old.  I need to bring down my daylight working lamp that is on my dollshouse  work table.

I had a lovely squishy arrive in the post a few days ago - my first package from the I-Knit London Sock Club.  I guess I had better not reveal too much in case people haven't got theirs yet.  The yarn is hand-dyed by Gerard in a vivid colour which is not quite my colour but I think I could wear it, and it feels lovely.  There are two patterns, one for socks and one for something else, which unfortunately had become rather battered in the post as they were just placed in the padded envelope with no protection.  Gerard has posted on Ravelry that we can email him for a .pdf version so I've done that, and I will print replacements.  There was also a cute extra which is also very practical. A nice surprise and I enjoyed looking through it all.  I've never been in a yarn club before.  I was in a fabric club a couple of times, but you quickly get too much fabric and none of it seems to go with each other.  I like the Sock Club because I will get two patterns with ideas to use the yarn.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

We now return to your normal programme

It feels a bit like things are getting back to normal.  It has become normal to have a boarded up window - still no sign of the replacement glass although I left a message today chasing them up.  The insurance assessor came on Thursday and turned out to be really nice.  He was very sympathetic and it sounds like we might actually be covered.  Apparently what happens now is yet another company gets involved who decide how much the electronics will cost to replace, and then offer us replacements, while some other company values the jewellery.  Meanwhile he gave me permission to replace my son's Ipod as he is studying for exams and was really missing it.  We got that today so my son is happy.

I had my Saturday Quilting Club today.  We have started our new group project, which is actually a UFO challenge rather than a group sewing project.  It's based on the one that Swooze was taking part in, where you list six projects and the coordinator (me) chooses a number and that's the one you have to work on.  We are going to do two months on each project, and I gave out prizes today for the oldest project on the list etc.  Some very ancient projects have come out the woodwork, including a 1982 hexagon quilt, and a 1980 first quilt.  In lieu of a random number generator, I got my cat (the one pictured below) to choose the first number by placing six pieces of dry food down on a piece of paper with six numbers written on it.  Of course he ate the closest one first, so I went with his second choice which was Number Five.

My number five project is my Grandmother's Last Quilt 25-block applique project.  I started this years ago with the plan to needleturn applique two blocks a month for a year, and do one more block and have a top.  Ha ha ha ha ha.  Today I excavated block number 15 and worked on that all morning.  It felt kind of good to finally be giving it some attention.  In the afternoon, I sewed together all the blocks for my Moda Portugal quilt that was on my design wall last week.  Now I just need to add a border.

Also this week I have sewn together the blocks for my Learn to Knit Afghan  and have started to knit a border for it.  The border I've chosen is 'Vertical garter stitch scallops' from Knitting on the Edge by Nicky Epstein, only I've added an extra plain row to round the scallops a bit. I experimented with knitting this directly onto the edge by joining at the end of each return row, but it was really cumbersome and heavy with the weight of the afghan, so I pulled that out and am just knitting it seperately.  This makes it a portable project.  Nicky doesn't say how to turn the corner, so I just mitred a corner in between two scallops by using short rows.

I made a push over the last few weeks on my Liesl cardigan in Knitcol yarn, because now is really the right weather to be wearing it.  I took it on our camping trip last weekend and got a lot done until I managed to break one of my KnitPro needles.  I did a bit on straights which was really awkward until my new tips arrived from Get Knitted in Bristol, then I finished the body this week.  Annoyingly, despite joining in several new balls of yarn as I knit, the variegation has split so that the two sides of the cardigan are completely different colours.  Grrrrr.  It looks cropped but that's just because it's not blocked yet.

After having a rethink about the Next Generation Frame, I ordered some wooden dowels in place of the too-hard plastic ones I was going to use.  Today I did some work on the home-made pole ends and maybe tomorrow, if it isn't raining, I might gather up my courage and try cutting one of the metal pipes.  It has become normal to have a 12 foot long coffee table in our living room and we are stacking the garden furniture cushions on it.  I am feeling intimidated by the whole job and wondering if it is going to work at all, but I'm not a quitter so will keep going and hope for the best.  Hopefully I will be quilting the Moda Portugal quilt on it some day soon.

Tomorrow I am off up to London to visit the London Kensington Dolls House Festival, one of the top UK shows, which generally has loads of eye candy.  I still haven't got my pay raise (although I am assured it is coming) so won't be going crazy, but I would like to get more 1/24th accessories for the Fairfield / Lydia Pickett dollshouse I am still building. It's usually quite an enjoyable fair, although a little static as it seems like almost the same people every year, in exactly the same spots.  This year they are promising a programme of free films/lectures so hopefully I will get to see some of those.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Trying week

It's been a fairly stressful week, trying to deal with the aftermath of the burglary and meanwhile I am really busy at work.  I can't remember if I blogged that my old boss' boss, the one that stepped in and fired the consultant, had a heart attack a few weeks ago and is going to be gone for three or four months after open heart surgery (yes, I've said it before, I really do work in a Soap Opera).  So not only am I doing my own job, and most of my previous boss' job, but I no longer have the support of the senior manager and we are having to improvise processes and do the best we can.

Meanwhile I've been talking to the insurance company, who are sending an assessor next week; getting the window measured up for replacement; I've had two electricians in to quote on better security lights; I've had a security firm in to quote on security lights as well but they said we would be better off with a burglar alarm; and I've had the local police in to advise on how we can improve the security of our home (they also said we should get an alarm).

So not a whole lot of crafts this week.  I did go out to my machine knitting shed last Monday, the day after the burglary, and when I unlocked the door, it fell off in my hand.  Turns out the burglar had patiently unscrewed all the hinges to have a look inside.  Let's hope he was fairly pissed to discover yet more yarn.  He didn't actually go in as the bolt side and the bottom hinge were still intact and nothing had been disturbed.

I was coping fairly well until Thursday when I suddenly realised that my engagement ring (which I rarely wore and kept in its box) was missing as well.  That really upset me and Thursday wasn't a great day.

Over the Easter weekend I cut out a new quilt, using up a pack of Moda 'Portugal' fabric that I had, and throwing in some of my own stash.  This is a pattern called 'Sophia's Song' which was in the May/June 2011 McCall's Quilting magazine, designed by Gerri Robinson.  Thursday night, to cheer myself up, I got out my homemade design wall and laid out the blocks and took this photo.  They are pinned up in rows now, waiting to be sewn.  A plain border goes on around the edge - I might try my sunflower fabric and see how it looks.  I love these colours, which make me think of sun-washed summer days.

The rest of the evenings I have been cocooning on the sofa in front of the TV, working on sewing together my Learn to Knit Afghan.  I sewed my six rows together, and now I am sewing the rows to each other.  I did experiment with crocheting the rows together, using double crochet and then slip stitch, but I didn't like the ridge it made nor how stiff it made the 'sashing', so I decided to just overcast stitch the crocheted edges together.

Mabel left a comment on the blog asking what was happening with my Next Generation quilting frame.  I couldn't respond directly as she is set to 'no reply' on Blogger, so I will say here that progress has been slow because the supplier I ordered most of the hardware from, to have a go at making an improved end instead of the sticky ratchets, thought it would just sit on the whole order because one of the handles wasn't available until 12 May. I protested, and the first part of the order finally turned up yesterday. However, the plastic dowels I bought to be the insert into the metal pipe have turned out to be too hard to drill or reduce in size, so I am a bit discouraged. I could go back to Plan A and just sheath the saggy poles in metal tubes, but I was hoping to avoid having to use the ratchets on the take up roller and backing roller at least. Time for a rethink on how to hang the poles from the frame. Meanwhile we have a 12-foot long coffee table in our living room which hopefully impeded the burglar as much as it gets in our way.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Burgled :(

We've just come back from two nights camping, and our plans of having two more days relaxing at home on this long Royal Wedding weekend have been disrupted as we found that our house had been broken into while we were gone.  The neighbour thinks she heard a bang in the early hours of last night, and it looks like they entered by smashing in a window in our rear conservatory and reaching in to let themselves in.

They turned out a lot of boxes and bags upstairs but didn't do much downstairs so perhaps ran out of time.  Very luckily they didn't take time to smash up or vandalise, for example none of my dollshouses or sewing machines or anything seem to have been touched.  They have taken two laptops, some jewellery and a watch, but mostly have hit my son: they took his game console, three handheld games consoles, most of his games and over £100 of his pocket money.  So he is pretty upset as you can imagine. But it could have been an awful lot worse, and as far as we can tell, they didn't bother to steal our identity like passports, cheque books etc.

So we've spent most of the evening talking to police, getting the smashed window boarded up (at our own expense as our insurance company seems to be rubbish when it is out of hours) and picking stuff up to put it away, while we try to work out what is missing.  Dare I say it, but I think our extremely cluttered home may have stymied the burglar, most of the cupboards and things that he opened were full of craft material which must have become a bit frustrating after the 6th or 7th cupboard...  Let's hope so anyway.

I think I'm dreading having to deal with the insurance company even more than I am upset about our home being invaded.  I hope they aren't going to want receipts for everything.  And I know we are going to end up out of pocket with the excess, having to pay for the window to be boarded etc.  And we've just realised that they stole the spare key for the car, so DH is going to have to go and hide it on another street.

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