Saturday, 25 June 2011

Callooh! Callay! (s)He chortled in his joy.

Yes, I am chortling in my joy as my raise at work finally came through.  Even better, it is backdated to 1 March so I should get a nice pot of money in July to pay for my quilting frame.  In celebration, I took my newly minted letter from HR to the John Lewis sale, where I bought a sweater's worth of Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Shell Pink at about half price.  There wasn't as much quantity of yarn on sale, but there was a good selection of types of yarn and I had a good fondle.  I also wandered the womenswear floor and came home with a celebratory cardigan, t-shirt and two summer tops from my newly discovered new favourite brand 'White Stuff' which does vintage-look fabric designs.  There were a number of half-price pattern books as well, and I picked up "Rowan Classic Heartland" featuring designs by Martin Storey in Silky Tweed.  I don't usually like his designs but there are some nice classics in this book.

Speaking of books, I also picked up a discounted copy of "Country Weekend Knits - 25 classic patterns for timeless knitwear" by Madeline Weston at a bookshop in London last week.  There are some really nice things in it.  Each chapter, 'Ganseys', 'Fair Isle', 'Aran', and 'Shetland Lace' starts with a short history of the traditions associated with that type of knitting, then goes on to several patterns updating the stitch patterns to traditional yet modern styles.  I was a bit disappointed that there are no diagrams and several patterns don't even have charts, so it's a bit of a detective game to work out what shape the knit pieces are and I would need to chart out the written instructions so I didn't get lost.  The photography is gorgeous, lots of montages of classic island living, stitch patterns etc.

This week I wore my Liesl Cardigan to work.  It still doesn't have a button, but I felt very elegant in it and it was surprisingly comfortable, very elastic and flexible.  I closed it with a decorative shawl pin.  As usual, my colleagues said nothing, so either they were thinking 'oh my god, how can she be wearing that', or else it looks so normal that it didn't occur to them to say anything.  I would have thought the giant safety pin would attract at least one comment...











I'm halfway along the foot of my Cookie A Sunshine Sock and it's fitting well, and I've sewn on about 2/3rds of the border to my Learn to Knit Afghan - which is starting to look very quilt-like now.

I finished quilting my Sunflower Moda Portugal quilt, my first one using a pantograph.  It went pretty well.  As it turns out, the stitching is pretty invisible, but I was actually getting much better towards the end of the quilt.  I was still having a bit of trouble with one side of the quilt backing feeding slightly faster than the other.  I think it was because my dead bar wasn't exactly parallel to the take up bar.  So I took that off after I finished the quilt, and did some plastic surgery to make it line up better.  Sue suggested that I could replace my tracks with metal strip, which would be a good Plan B if Cotton Patch can't obtain the replacement tracks from Grace in America.  Bet that would be a bit noisier though.  I'm going to load another single quilt and do a different panto on it.

I needed a new brainless knit for telly viewing and knit group.  I had some lovely Knitwitches 'Seriously Gorgeous Swiss Silk with Kid Mohair' that I got on sale at one of the I-knit Weekends.  I've now cast on for the Knit Picks 'City Tweed Drop Stitch Shawl'.  It's quite eay to knit and is showing the yarn off well.  I'm not adding the knit-on fringe, and I think I will try to make it crescent-shaped rather than triangular.

And I knit another ugly cat blanket from acrylic yarn.  It's not blocked yet which is why it's all folding in at the edges.  My plan is to knit them in sets of three, then use the three knitted blankets to 'pay' our way into the Battersea Cats Wing to admire the lovely kitties waiting for new homes (usually you have to donate actual cash to go in as a spectator).




Finally, it's that time of year when you have to look at my spectacular rose bush.  I took these pictures just after a morning rain shower.  These roses are about the size of my hand, just amazing (and even more amazing that they haven't died, in my garden...)




Saturday, 18 June 2011

Panto time

I'm learning to do pantographs on my quilting frame (tracing over paper patterns with a laser pointer while the machine stitches out the pattern on the quilt top).  I loaded a practice sandwich and tried out three different patterns before finding one that I liked the look of.  Now I've switched to my Moda Portugal Sunflower quilt and am slowly quilting along.  Slowly because I have to roll on the frame after stitching each row.  I'm getting better at following the line but there are still plenty of wobbles and accidental loops.  I'm also trying to get a more consistent stitch length as I don't have a stitch regulator.

I saw stitch regulators at the Cotton Patch open day - £450!  It doesn't really seem worth spending that much money on a short-arm set-up.  I enjoyed the day out.  The shop is much smaller than I was expecting.  Up until now, I've only experienced them from their professional newsletter, e-newsletter and ordering via their website.  They stock a lot of American brands of quilting supplies and I just thought they would be bigger somehow.  But they are only a shopfront and a half and it's pretty crammed.  They were fairly busy the day of the open day and I was constantly having to shuffle about in front of the till to let people in and out of the shop as I waited to order.

But I enjoyed the demos which took place in their dedicated studio further down the block.  They had several short arms set up on various Grace frames, plus a Sweet Sixteen sit-down Handiquilter, and a big 120" frame with Handiquilter.  You could try them all out, plus try out the Grace Pattern Perfect (which I liked), Groovy Boards (didn't like these as much), the stitch regulators, speed controls etc.  There were about 25 people in each session, and loads of helpful staff demonstrating, answering questions etc.  I picked up several good tips about using my frame, and enjoyed talking to other frame afficionados there.  We all got a big Handiquilter totebag, with a reel of Cotty thread inside, a Cotton Patch / Marti Michell Corner Trimmer ruler with instructions, and various pamphlets and newsletters.  I also had a go on a top of the line Pfaff Quilting 4.0 edition sewing machine - and didn't like it which made me feel a bit smug about my own machines.  Irrational I know.  I ordered new tracks for my frame, a new laser pointer, and a new hopping foot for my machine, but they are all on back order.

On the knitting front, I finished my Vertical Garter Edging for my afghan, and you can see it blocking here.  I also knit a quick blanket on my chunky knitting machine to donate to the Battersea Cat Home, which is the ugly little blanket in the middle.  I have loads of coned acrylic yarn from when I used to do more machine knitting, and this seems like a good way to use up some of the more hideous colours that I obviously bought in a moment of insanity.  I'm knitting double stranded 4-ply on T3, I turned up a hem on either end and crocheted down both side edges.  The plan is to keep knitting these until I use up the ugly yarn, if I get time anyway.

You can see the Sunflower quilt on the frame in the background.

I also finished the Leisl Cardigan and here it is blocking.  I have had to guess a bit at what size to block it out to, I'll how this fits when it's dry.  If it doesn't work, I can always block it again.  I also need to work out how I am going to button it.

I had my Saturday quilt club today and finished Block 15 of Grandmother's Last Quilt 25 block applique quilt.  This was my UFO challenge project for our group UFO challenge, and I found that being in the challenge really motivated me to work on it, and I picked it up several times since last meeting.

Then I switched on my machine and in the afternoon I put together the blocks for the middle of my Kaffe Fassett Stars Over England quilt.  It just needs some borders now and then I will be able to squiggle over it on my new frame.


The other nice thing that happened at quilt group is that I took along the quilts I've quilted on the frame for show and tell.  The members like them and one lady actually bought my Daisy Trellis quilt for her granddaughter who happens to be called Daisy!  The purchase price isn't bad - it doesn't cover all my costs but it covers the lion's share, and even better she is going to do the binding so I don't have to.  Result!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Happy WWKIPD!

Yesterday was Worldwide Knit in Public Day, or at least the kick-off, as it will go on for a week or so to allow everyone to take part.  I went along and joined the Hampton knitting group who were knitting in public at the Hampton Carnival.  They are a very friendly group but I'm not sure any of the public realised what we were doing as we didn't have any signage.

I was wrestling with the third sleeve (first sleeve Part Deux) of my Liesl Cardigan, once again having a dickens of a time getting the pattern to match up smoothly.  Although Feather & Fan stitch is easy to do, it is relatively difficult to get it to line up if you aren't sure where you are. I'm several rows into the sleeve but still not sure it is working properly. The variegated Knit-col yarn was admired by several people.

On a more positive note, I'm really pleased with the re-knit of my Cookie A Sunshine Sock.  It is working out much better in the Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn.  It fits better, and looks more delicate and less like knitted truck tire tread.  I have turned the heel and am just starting to decrease the gussets. I only did two repeats of the leg chart so it will be a shorter summer sock (the pattern calls for three repeats). Turns out the top-of-foot chart is wrong as well, but an obvious error (double column of purl stitch) that was easy to spot.

I'm still knitting away on my Vertical Garter Stitch Edging for my afghan and am now on the final side.


On the quilting front, I finished the frame quilting on my Gingerbread House Christmas wallhanging.  It still needs more quilting off the frame, mainly stitch in the ditch around the borders and panel squares.

My tracks seem to be getting worse and the steering is definitely getting a bit wonky now.  I'm looking into getting replacement rails through a UK supplier.

I have a treat to look forward to - DH has kindly agreed to drive me up to visit Cotton Patch, a quilt shop in Birmingham which specialises in machine frame quilting.  They are having an open day to demonstrate the various frames and gadgets you can use like rulers and pattern boards.  Goody Bags are promised!  It is probably going to give me a bad case of mid-arm envy, but hopefully it will also prove useful.

Meanwhile I am trudging on with preparing my remaining tops for the frame, finishing them and constructing backings where necessary.  I got the sunflower borders onto my Moda Portugal Nine-Patch quilt.  I've hung it up in the landing where it provides an uplifting sunny spot - given that our weather has turned cold, grey and rainy again here. I'm planning to quilt this using pantographs - so now I've got to learn how to do pantographs!  I plan to load a practice sandwich onto the frame today and start trying to learn.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Getting a bit out of breath as I clamber up the learning curve

Still getting to grips by trial and error with my new quilting frame.  Why can't we just pop a pill and wake up the next morning as instant experts?  Learning curves can be hard, and sometimes depressing.  Having meandered on two quilts, I moved onto something more difficult:  my Garden BOM quilt which has applique squares that needed custom quilting.

So I had to get my head around doing custom quilting when I can only do a 5-6" stripe at a time.  Cue lots of starting and stopping and rolling the top back and forth.  Almost instantly, I discovered I couldn't see where I was stitching because of the scratched up plastic insert in the hopping foot.  So there is a stripe or two that I will need to unpick.  Eventually I took the foot off to look at it, and discovered I could pop out the plastic insert.  That has vastly improved visibility, but made the tension more difficult to get right.

This quilt took a lot longer because of all the custom work, and I only took it off the machine on Saturday morning.  It's not finished yet because I need to do some of the fine detail work on my normal machine, plus unpick and re-sew the parts I mucked up at the beginning.  I also got discouraged near the end as I discovered it was rolling crooked due to my broken ratchet at one end of the backing roller, so I needed to fudge back in some of the fullness at the other end.  The quilt has ended up slightly trapezoidal although it isn't too obvious.  Once it was off the machine, I re-glued the ratchet so hopefully it will stay put now.


I've discovered my back rail has cracked for about 3 inches in one place.  I've read about this on the Yahoo group, in America you can order replacements but heaven knows if I can get them here in the UK without paying a fortune.  I've now loaded on a smaller Christmas wallhanging but it also needs custom work.  I am experimenting with chalking through some stencils then trying to follow the lines.

On the knitting front, I finished the second sleeve on my Liesl cardigan and have taken off the first sleeve and picked up to re-knit.  This wasn't too difficult as I hadn't woven in my end when I joined on to knit the sleeve, so I could just unravel the joining yarn and pick up as I unraveled.  I've also continued to knit on my Vertical Garter Stitch Edging, I'm on the third side now.  I've found I can knit it almost without looking, while I am helping DS revise for his GCSEs.

We're in the middle of a heatwave here in the south of the UK.  Yesterday in late afternoon, I took a break from all the weekend chores and hobbies, and took my new issue of Knitting magazine outdoors to the recliner in the shade and enjoyed a tall cold Pimms as I read my magazine.  Very nice.

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