Sunday, 27 August 2017

Quilt number three finished

It's a bank holiday weekend here in the UK and for once it has been lovely and sunny.  We've just had a BBQ tonight just for the three of us, out on the dirt under our new pergola (still no patio) which was very nice.

I've continued the quilt production line over the weekend. My Cosy Afternoon BoM quilt, which was quilt number three on the frame, is now quilted, washed and bound.  It actually looks alright, the place where I varied the row height leading to some overstitching really doesn't show on the busy fabric.  I like the vintage look from washing the quilt then giving it a light steam press.  In fact I like the whole quilt better now that it's finished, lol.

Quilt number four is now loaded on the machine, which is the William Morris grid quilt.  I'm getting slightly fancier by stitching one panto in the borders and a different one in the middle.  This is the panto I'm using in the borders which is quite nice, it's Funky Feathers which is a free download offered generously by Urban Elementz.

I will stitch the two side borders (as the quilt is loaded lengthwise) then turn the quilt to stitch the top and bottom borders.  To help the quilt roll evenly, I am basting across the unquilted side borders every two passes.

  This quilt is a lot bigger and is using up most of the width of the frame, so I was encountering an issue with the split area of track.  After three quilts the split area had opened up to about five inches wide and one side had detached at one end, so it was really catching the carriage wheels when I rolled in that direction. But with the smaller quilts I wasn't actually passing over that area while quilting.  Now I am, so I had to perform some surgery by breaking out the split area and cleaning up the broken ends so that they butt together fairly tightly.  Now the break is almost imperceptible.  There is still a problem at the far end of the same track but because I am not quilting the side borders, I don't pass over that part while quilting so it's alright.  I might have to do another patch if I quilt right across on something wider.  I did read many years ago about a woman who replaced her plastic tracks completely with narrow aluminium strip, which might be an option if I could find that here in the UK.

I had my lacemaking friends over last week, which is the first time they've seem the frame-  which is in the room where we sit round the table to do our lace.  I was a bit disappointed that nobody was very interested, after the first shock about how big it was.  I was hoping at least one person would ask how it worked or what I was doing on it, but instead there seemed to be a general feeling that it was all a bit over the top and best ignored.  I suppose not everyone is a multi-hobbyist but still.  But then I am a gadget girl and perhaps they aren't.

Meanwhile on the sit-down machine, I finally finished sewing down the fusible applique on the big blue and white quilt.  I took a break after that from the production line, and stitched up a padded mug bag for carrying a real mug to lace days so I don't have to drink out of styrofoam cups (which always give tea a funny taste) - I got the idea from other lacemakers who had bought their bags.  I had a round wooden disk so I incorporated that into the base of the bag to give the mug more protection. the outer fabric has a pattern of cups and saucers which seemed appropriate.

I've moved on to a red and white toile UFO which has been languishing for years since an unsuccessful attempt to quilt it on the frame.  I've just looked it up and I made it in 2012.  It was an impulse buy of two toile fabrics, the same pattern but one in red and one in white. I thought I was being clever making up a quilt of 'red' stars and 'white' stars each with the reverse as background.  Unfortunately it just ended up looking like a bunch of triangles, it's too busy to pick out the blocks at all.  Instead of quilting an all over pattern, I tried to fix things by meandering in the white areas so the red would stand out but instead the red went all puffy, then I completed the mess by mucking up the border pattern.  Sigh.  So I've been procrastinating about it for five years hoping the magic quilting fairies would sort it all out for me when I wasn't looking.   Now I've decided to just get it finished so I can give it away, probably to charity.  I've quilted in the ditch around all the borders and blocks which I should have done in the first place, unpicked the mess in the borders, and I'm continuous curve quilting in the stars (not very well but I'm getting better).

When I haven't been sewing on quilt binding or unpicking past mistakes, I've continued with my cross stitch UFO.  It now seems faintly possible that I might even finish it in this lifetime.

Yesterday we had a family outing to Burghley House, an Elizabethan pile up by Stamford.

They are getting ready for the famous Burghley Horse Trials which start in a few days, but meanwhile the house and gardens were still open.  DS nobly came with us for the sake of a family outing although it's not really his thing.  The house has magnificent interiors dating from Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian times, impressive in a rather heavy ponderous way.  There aren't flower gardens as such but there is a park featuring many pieces of rather strange modern sculpture, and an area billed as the 'Garden of Surprises' which has a lot of water fountains and water jets.  Some of these evoke 18th C grottoes and follies, others are meant for children to play in, and some are just very weird modern art (most of which is not standing up to the elements very well and was looking tired and broken) .  We had a nice walk past all the marquees and jump courses being set up for the horse trials to the Lion Bridge where there is a good view back to the house. We had lunch in the cafe but felt it was all very expensive for what it was, and had an ice cream from the garden kiosk.  Nice to do something as a family.

This morning DH and I went to an antiques fair at Lamport Hall, which sets up in the stables and outbuildings.  It's held twice a year so we've been several times and bought some nice things in the past. Normally it's raining so it felt strange to be actually too hot and trying to shelter out of the sun.  I found a nice little tablecloth hand embroidered with a crinoline lady and flowers, and a little chintz vase to add to my small collection of chintzware. I flirted with several other things but didn't commit.

Having a long weekend has been an opportunity to work in the garden a bit, and I've also pared down our front gate which was sticking, and repainted the raw wood area.  I've even done some jobs around the house so I'm feeling virtuous.  When I was working in the garden I realised my Clematis ‘Wesselton’ had produced a few more blooms (it originally bloomed in the spring).  They are so pretty, so I brought one into the house.

If you are in the UK, I hope you are enjoying your long weekend. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Learning curves suck - why can't we just learn things once and then never forget them again?

I stumble onwards with my quilt frame and I am getting better but it's sometimes two steps forward and one backwards.  I've now got quilt number three loaded up and am stitching out a pantograph of an abstract rose.  I'm getting better at controlling my stitch length and after an initial poor row, I have sorted the tension pretty well.  But then I ran out of room in my throat space because the take up roll had become too fat, and I started hitting the take up roll at the bottom of my pantograph design.  Could I remember how to fix this? No.  I tried three different things none of which worked and with the result that I've got one row that varies in height three times, before I eventually worked out that I needed to move the quilt itself and then move the laser.  That's why this is a sacrificial quilt before I move onto the next and better one.

I had toyed with the idea of clearing my machine knitting room and setting up this frame permanently, but realistically I would have the same learning curve every time I used it which would only be a few times a year.  At least this way (setting it up every year or so) I have a backlog of tops and can work my way up from the least important to the higher priority as my skill increases.

I'm using King Tut in the top because it creates the least fluff in the machine, and Bottom Line in the bobbin which is a finer thread so I can maximise my stitching before I have to change bobbins. I've planned ahead and ordered a few more spools of King Tut for the next quilts on the list.  In the sewing room, I am plodding on with stitching down the fusible applique on my blue and white quilt. I don't know what I was thinking when I fused down a kazillion pieces to create a mosaic frame.  I've stitched down two sides now and have started the third side, I'm just wildly free motion zig zagging along the sides with invisible thread.

In the evenings I've been working on my ancient cross -stitch UFO.  I've probably done more in the last few weeks than I've done in the last few years.  Still hampered by not being able to count, even with a grid to help me, so some things are not quite like they are on the chart.  I'm enjoying it though, now that I can stitch in front of the telly.  So many things are better in front of the telly, lol.

We've been eating a lot of pears and I still have two big bags of them.  They are ripening faster than we can eat them. I'm hoping to palm some off on my lace ladies next time they visit.  I went to a local lace day yesterday and spent a pleasant few hours working on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging, it's going along fine now (touch wood).

This morning we went over to Scotch Lodge, a farm and craft shop in Earl's Barton, for a craft fair.  It was very nice with lots of stalls with proper homemade crafts.  I enjoy looking but generally I either can make it myself or have already made it myself, so I feel a bit guilty making eye contact with the hopeful stall holders.  We did hit the jackpot with one stall selling off her deceased sister's enormous scrapbooking stash very cheaply.  We picked up several items suitable for dollshousing, modelling or sewing, and it was for a good cause so we don't need to fill guilty.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Apples and pears

My second quilt is off the frame and after taking this photo I unpicked the mess I made in the border. Then I stitched around the border with my walking foot on my sit-down machine so it is ready to stitch a fancy pantograph pattern once I have become more skillful.

I've now attached the laser to the machine, shifted the controls to the rear of the carriage, and am trying to upskill on driving the machine using a pantograph.  I've started on a fairly easy one and loaded a practice quilt sandwich.  The pantograph is a long paper pattern that lays along the table to the rear of the machine.  The laser point represents the machine needle, and the skill is to smoothly drive the laser light along the paper pattern so that the machine stitches out a duplicate of the pattern.  Of course, any accidental jogs, wavers, hesitations etc all show up in the stitching as well.

The pattern laid along the rear of the machine.

The paper pattern

the resulting stitched pattern.

I'm going to practice a bit more then load quilt number three which will be the Cosy Afternoon BOM I made a few years ago.

When I was handstitching down the binding on quilt number one, the cat thought it made a pretty good hammock.

In the sewing room, I spent some time on my day off getting further quilts ready for the frame.  By my count I have 14 tops waiting.  Some of them can only be basted on the frame and will have to be quilted on the sit down machine. One really needs to be hand quilted.  One wall hanging I've already pinned up into a sandwich to quilt at the sit down machine.  I also sewed together three backings ready for their respective quilts, and I've started stitching down some fusible applique on a quilt I made about 10 or 12 years ago.  There is a lot of fusible applique on it and I never felt like doing it so it's never been quilted.  I really want to clear the decks on all these old projects and get them finished and out of the sewing room.

Also on my day off, I had a go at creating pavement in front of the hairdressing salon using paperclay.  The pavement came out alright, I'm not so happy about the 'tiles' in front of the door but I'll keep tinkering with them.

We had a nice day out today over to Weedon Bec where the Royal Ordnance Depot was having an open day.  This is a massive complex built in Napoleonic times to house ordnance and supplies in a central location away from the dangers of a possible invasion.  It was connected by a spur canal to a nearby bigger canal and later to the railway, and was in use up until the mid-sixties.  Nowadays it houses a mix of small businesses and we visited a fun bookstore and an antiques store.  For the open day they also had a lot of craft stalls, food stalls, vintage vehicles, military re-enactors etc.

Afterward we headed over to The Village Antiques Market in Weedon which we have visited before, and picked up a chest of drawers for DS's room and a nice oak bookcase for the hallway. 'Brown' furniture is still so cheap because nobody seems to want it, but we love buying solid wood antiques for the same or less than you would pay for flimsy modern chipboard furniture.

That's about it this week.  I've done a bit more on the Bucks Point lace edging and I've been using my Lapman frame to work on my ancient cross stitch picture. I looked up online when I should pick pears from our pear tree and it said that they are ready to pick when they part easily from the stem when lifted to a horizontal position. So I went out to pick some pears and it turned out almost all of them were ready to pick so now we've got pears coming out our ears.  I've made one pear pie already and I'm sure there will be more in my future.  Our strawberry plants are still producing about a handful of berries a week which is nice.  The apple tree is absolutely laden but I don't think the apples will be ripe for some time yet.  Some of the branches were actually hanging down to the ground and crushing my bedding plants so I've improvised some supports to keep the apples up in the air.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Quilt number one off the frame

I have a feeling my blog is going to be rather dull for the next weeks now that I have settled into some long term projects, so I apologise for that.  The quilting frame continues to take up a significant portion of the dining room, and my first quilt is now done, washed, binding machined on and being hand-sewn down onto the back in the evenings.

As you can see, I have started with a medium stipple and on this top I was concentrating on reducing my stitch length and trying to get it more consistent. I ordered several packs of wadding from Lady Sew and Sew and they turned up this week, so I've stashed them under the frame ready for the quilts to come.  I'm getting back into the swing of operating the machine and have made several bobbin changes successfully in mid-pass.

I've now loaded quilt number two onto the frame, which is my Stack and Whack Hexagon Stars quilt from some time ago.  I am again stippling but I'm leaving the framed border free for a fancier border pattern.  In a burst of overconfidence, I tried stitching the fancy border freehand which was a disaster, so I am going to have to unpick the mess I made once the quilt is off the frame.  Trying to run before I can walk.  The frame is not easy to freehand with, the carriage is fairly heavy to push around and due to the cracks in my tracks, there are a few places where it hesitates which can be fatal when you are trying to freehand a smooth curve.

This week I finished sewing together the 20 blocks of my handknitted Great American Aran Afghan or GAAA as it's known in the knitting world.  Now I am trying to knit the cabled edging.  The pattern suggests you knit the edging separately and sew it on, which seems a recipe for disaster.  I began by trying to knit it on directly, joining on every alternate row by SSKing into a loop of the afghan.  My first attempt into every loop was too compressed.  My second attempt into alternate loops was too stretched.  I'm now trying to skip one loop in three which is working better but is a pain to do because you have to remember what you did on the previous pick up row.  Knitting the edging separately and sewing it on is starting to look more attractive as an option.  Several people on Ravelry said they knit the edging separately but joined it as they went, sewing it on a few blocks at a time, so I might try that next.

The Bucks Point hexagonal edging continues, I'm getting close to the end of the first of six repeats.  So far (touch wood) it's going fine with minimal reverse lacing, albeit very slowly as I only work on it a few hours each week.

I'm about halfway through the second colour change of my Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Cowl. Although I like the yarn, I find working with the cotton very tiring on my hands.  I suppose because cotton is a very lifeless fibre and the knitter has to do all the work of pulling the yarn through to make stitches.  I've also started my second Rose Window Hat, this one for myself.

I painted the wallpaper on the outside of the hairdressing salon with sealer, and trimmed the top edges of the box with stained and varnished wood strips.  I've also touched up the paint job Eileen had applied on the front of the box and sealed that as well.  I think the pavement in front of the shop (or sidewalk to North Americans) will be next.

Hopefully tomorrow I will get a bunch of gardening done. I haven't been out there for a long time because it's been so windy and rainy.  The lawn desperately needs mowing and I need to check if my foxglove seedlings are ready to prick out yet.  We're still waiting on Patio Guy to do the patio under the pergola.  He's made two attempts now, once while we were on holiday and once he phoned me at 5:30pm on my way home from work to announce he was coming the next day - he seems to struggle with the concept that I have a job and need time to request leave from my manager, and can't just be available at the drop of a hat.  Now he says he may not be able to come until September.  Meanwhile Shower Guy, who let us down with three week's notice last month on our long-planned installation, now says he is 'definitely' coming in September.  I have no doubt that if they turn up at all, it will be on the same day and probably Patio Guy will be trying to wheelbarrow in materials at the same time as Shower Guy is trying to block the path with scaffolding to get at the connection to the soil pipe.

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