Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fruit Salad Quilt finished, Cone Nebula quilt quilted

I had a lot of self-inflicted problems with this quilt, but it is now done. It's about 44.5" wide, and I'm going to pitch it as a table topper for the quilt guild's silent auction at the show this summer. (The proceeds from the auction go to pay the bills for the show, and I have permission from the publisher to use the pattern for this purpose.)

I sort of stumbled over the orange peach and apple fabric a few weeks ago, and I think the fabric really set off the entire piece.

Now, I present to you some beauty shots of the gorgeous quilting that Lynne Bowbeer did on the Cone Nebula quilt. So, without narrative, here are some beauty shots. If you are local and want to get in touch with Lynne so that she can quilt your next quilt, send me a note, and I'll be happy to pass it on to her. (The only perk I get from this is a hug from her the next time I see her.)
Aren't those wonderful? When I show this quilt in the show this summer, I'm listing her as the co-creator. She found energy in the quilt and let it be seen. I am totally blown away by the work she did.

Finally, here is the requisite cute kitty shot. I don't know what was going on, but I noticed this grouping one evening and grabbed the camera. This was the least shaky shot. (We have Baby Boy, Big Guy, and the Princess.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cowls, Quilts, Spinning, and Socks

I had a note from a friend this week asking where I was and if I had abandoned this blog. Well, I've been under the weather, buried in two complicated books, and watching Downton Abbey.

First, the books. The parish's book group had a very good discussion about Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God: Mapping New Frontiers in Theology. I was really glad that I had read the book, the bishops' statement about the book, Dr. Johnson's response to the statement, and the bishops' response to her response. It was pretty dense theological argument for a non-theologian, but it was worth the time spent to read, reflect, and then discuss.

Next, just this morning, I have finished reading Charles Dickens' Bleak House. This is for my other book club. It seemed as though the book took forever, but at the end, I am glad I read this. The characters (and there are a LOT of them) are richly drawn with even minor characters having interior lives and interesting things to do. The plot is carefully drawn, with LOTS of different plot lines thrown out and then all drawn together at the end. I will be carrying these characters and their lives with me for a long time.

After finishing the Christmas knitting, I made a cowl for myself from The Garter Girl's Burberry-like cowl pattern. Here it is:
It's warm, comfortable, and bright pink. Life doesn't get much better!

As soon as I finished it, I started in on a pair of basic toe-up socks from Melissa Morgan-Oakes' book. I am using the dyed sock yarn blank I purchased from Happy Fuzzy Yarns last winter when I took her yarn dyeing class. Here's my progress so far (much delayed because I've been reading Bleak House):
I am about an inch or two up from the toes area.

I have also been spinning a bit. Here are a couple of beauty shots of the lovely silk roving I got at the Fiber Expo back in October:

Finally, I have been working on the Fruit Salad quilt. I started off by auditioning various fabrics for the setting squares, and I still couldn't figure out the orientation of the diamonds.

I didn't like any of these fabrics. Then I got the bright idea of moving away from the standard setting square idea and into a different direction. Here is the start of the notion:
Then, I realized that I had some interesting options from here, including finishing this as a circle. Here is the current state of play - yes, those most recent pieces have to be picked out and moved to new places because, let's face it, a circle has 360 degrees, and a foolish quilter forgets that to her peril.
I am starting to like this piece again.

Finally, here is the requisite cute cat shot. This is the Big Guy - I crept up the basement stairs and set the camera on the floor to get this shot. He is SUCH a cuddler.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday - 1/4/12

Before I get to the books, I need to show you this picture. After posting the picture of the star quilt on the design wall, I got to wondering if that were the best configuration. So, I reversed the direction of the diamonds, and I like this a lot more. What do you think?
I'll have to do some experimenting with setting squares, etc. Now, I have creativity flowing again!!

As for what I've been reading... Well, I did a lot of Christmas knitting, and that cut into reading time. I spent about three weeks reading Jacquelyn Mitchard's Twelve Times Blessed. I gave up about three-quarters of the way through. Now, I LOVE this lady's books, but the main character in this book just kept making really stupid decisions and saying really crazy relationship-destroying things, and I finally just got to a point where reading the book upset me to the point of mild depression. When I start dreading reading a book that is supposed to be relaxing, it's time to pull out the bookmark and put the book aside. If anyone out there has read this book and thinks that I should finish reading it through, please let me know.

For my parish's book club selection in January, we are reading Elizabeth Johnson's The Quest for the Living God. This appears to be a college freshman level introductory theology book that has been strongly criticized by the American bishops. When I get through reading this book, I intend to read the bishops' statements very carefully. I am about halfway through the book, and it is well written and would be easily accessible to anyone who looking for a basic introduction to the great currents of contemporary Christian theology. Her chapter on the post-Holocaust theology that emerged in the 1940s-1960s is a lovely complement to Karen Armstrong's chapter about the development of Jewish theology in the 20th century in her book A History of God.

Finally, I have to show you why I've been typing this all hunched over on a folding chair.
The lines of authority in this house are very clearly delineated.....

Monday, January 2, 2012

Catching Up; Looking Forward

When last I posted, I was knitting as fast as I could. The last week before Christmas, I discovered that one of the cowls simply had no stretch and was continuing to bleed color. So, this one was not in the present mix:
I do want to make this cowl again, but I'll use a more conventional yarn and hope for better results. Soon after I discovered this problem, one of my intended recipients told me she is allergic to wool. At that point, I decided that she and one other person would get something else. That evening, we walked by Mix in downtown Ypsilanti, and I saw the cutest purse. So, yeah, I was one of the people out on Christmas Eve getting the last few items.

On Christmas Eve morning, I finished the Molly Stark scarf for my sister. Here are a couple of pictures of it blocking. I should have taken my camera to family Christmas, but I forgot.
I ended up using Malabrigo Worsted for this because the colorway was closer to what my sister had requested. I really liked the way this turned out.

I also made a cute little scarf for my great nephew from the Toddle pattern on Knitty. You'll just have to imagine that scarf in the leftover teal yarn from the Every Way Wrap I finished back in the summer. My niece has promised to get a picture to me.

Another project I worked on was this:
This was the entrance to my laundry/craft area. The cat litter boxes contain my dyeing supplies. Now this area looks like this:
The next shelf up has the orange bucket and the laundry baskets. I can't believe it took me living here for four years to finally get around to properly organizing this area. We are looking for a new home for the table (it's particle board with a sturdy laminate on top and metal legs; there's an extra leaf that makes the table big enough to seat 6-8 people). I will probably call Friends in Deed so that this goes to a family needing a nice table.

Finally, I have been working on the Fruit Salad quilt. Here is the result of three days of making a lot of mistakes and fixing them. It has almost seemed as though I have been relearning basic skills with this.
The sections aren't yet sewn together, and I want to think about the setting. I have been thinking right along that I would use the white fabric that is along the edges as the setting blocks, and that would really make the dark cherry pieces stick out. I'm not in love with this quilt, but I think it's not half bad.

Now, for the part I've been dreading: A recap of the year's goals and the progress thereof. Here are the goals I listed for 2011 and the progress made:

  1. Continue reading serious books - there is so much to learn!  Yes! I did this.
  2. Read up on and attend some meetings regarding the drain commission and its work.* No, I did none of this.
  3. Get good at spinning with the spindle, smoothing out the yarn and making it thinner. No, I have simply not spent the time with this that I really do want to spend.
  4. Be a gracious volunteer coordinator for the guild's weekend of workshops at the end of July. Yes, I did this and had a lot of fun doing it and have told the powers that be I will not continue as volunteer coordinator after the 2012 guild quilt show.
  5. Do not volunteer to make soul-sucking quilts - if they hurt to make, maybe they shouldn't be made. Yes, I held to this. I did spend a couple of afternoons with annoying projects for door prizes for the guild's weekend of workshops, but that's part of being a community member.
  6. Finish the Cone Nebula quilt. Yes
  7. Play with screen printing and other techniques. Yes, but not as much as I would have liked.
  8. Finish the Every Way Wrap and make other fun-to-knit projects Of course!
  9. Post here at least twice a week - Wednesdays and Saturdays Umm, no. Sorry
Here are my goals for 2012:
  1. Read books that are not "assigned" by book clubs.
  2. Get back to posting here on Wednesdays - What I'm Reading
  3. Pick a community service project and stick with it - will I continue on the condo association board or not? If not, what will I do instead?
  4. Schedule an evening a week at the spinning wheel (and/or with the spindle).
  5. Make the two "art" quilts I have in my brain. They've been locked up there for too long.
  6. Make the socks I've been promising myself since August. I keep letting other projects get in the way.
  7. Make a wonderful quilt for my nephew and his sweet wife.
  8. Have a lot of fun with my volunteer projects for the quilt guild - running the fabric sale and serving as volunteer coordinator for the quilt show.
  9. Finish the rag rug I started in November, 2010....
Oh, the rag rug! My small sewing group gets together during the holiday week, and this is what I worked on during small group day this year.
That's all for now. I need to go read so that I have something to blog about on Wednesday. Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Knitting (cont.)

Another week, and I have another cowl done. This is the Diversify cowl. The main reasons I picked this pattern were that it was just right for the small skein I had of lettuce green yarn and it looked easy. Well, I was right about one of those. I was an inch into this project before I started feeling as though the pattern made any sense or I could actually see the pattern emerging from the tangle of yarn. Once I figured out what was going on, the pattern became easy, and I like the end result. Here's what it looks like unblocked (it's soaking right now).
Whew! The yarn is the same 50% silk/50% merino blend that I used for the Duet cowls. I LOVE this yarn. Once I get the gift knitting done, I've got a couple of skeins of this yarn in bright pink with which I'm going to knit the Burberry-inspired cowl for myself.

Here is the cute cat (or, gee, why am I not making more progress with my knitting this afternoon) picture of the week.
(He's got my right hand, and my left hand is holding the cellphone somewhat shakily.) What a sweet fellow!

I hope everyone out there has a nice holiday.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hearing the Holiday Train Roaring Down the Track

This past week, I had to set aside the crafting and focus on getting ready for this week's book club meetings. Yes. On Tuesday evening, I have book club meetings 5:30-7 and 7-8:30. Of course, just to make things even more interesting, I'm leading the discussion in the second group. Fortunately, the members of the first book club were willing to meet in a restaurant just two blocks from where the second group is meeting.

The first club will be discussing Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, about the 1854 cholera epidemic in London that helped establish the science of epidemiology. This is a really good 200-page book filled with sociology, biology, politics, geography, etc. Unfortunately, the book is buried inside a 250-page book. I recommend this book with the caveat that one be prepared to simply skip several pages at a time in a couple of places. I am looking forward to seeing what my fellow clubbers have to say about this book.

The second club will be discussing Dorothy Day's 1952 autobiography, The Long Loneliness. This is a woman who lived one of the richest lives of the 20th century. As a teenager, she was jailed as a hunger-striking suffragette during the final years of the women's suffrage movement. She worked as a journalist, getting published in an assortment of Socialist, labor, and Catholic magazines and newspapers. In her long life, she wrote books of reflections, novels, and plays. In her late 20s, upon the birth of her daughter, she left her common-law husband and became a Catholic. A few years later in the mid-1930s, in the depth of the Depression, she co-founded the Catholic Worker movement that, 30 years after her death, is still thriving with more than 230 houses of hospitality located across this country and in many others as well. I have long considered her a challenging voice in the Church and someone who makes me very uneasy. This book very much comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. She sees the world very much as a place that can be fixed and must be fixed now. I read somewhere that someone said to her once, "Someday, you'll be canonized a saint." She is said to have snapped, "I wouldn't want to be dismissed so easily." I could hear that voice crackling through this book, and I am looking forward to reading more by her, I think.....

Having finished that book, I turned my attention back to the Christmas knitting, and this afternoon I finished #5, the Impressionist Cowl, using Malabrigo Rios yarn in the colorway Indiecita (yarn that I purchased at the Busy Hands shop in Ann Arbor). Here it is before blocking.
This morning at the coffee shop after church, I laid out all five of the cowls (this one was still on the needles), and the gals looking at them gasped at this one. "Oh, Liz! This is the one they'll fight over!" I just love the stitch pattern and how it plays with the variegated colors.

Finally, here is the cat picture of the week. Last evening, Hubby said, "Oh, look at the Big Guy!" and we both started taking pictures of our dog-like tomcat. He's 16-and-a-half years old. As far as I'm concerned, he can strike any pose he wants.
Time to go cast on cowl #6! Have a great week!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fruit Salad Quilt and more

Part of my morning, easing-into-the-workday routine is reading Melody Johnson's blog, Fibermania. (Gee, I hope my boss looks at context here....) The big danger here is that she frequently has posts that make me crazy all day to just get home and DO something. One of those posts happened on Thursday where she reminded us about this tutorial for dyeing wool in the microwave. It so happened I had some Cascade 220 wool yarn I'd bought from Dharma Trading a few weeks ago. I was going to be home alone that evening, so after making sure I had food coloring in the kitchen,  I sent a text message to the sister (who has a fabulous new blog you really should check out) and asked her what color I should do. We agreed on a deep jewel-toned purple. The results that evening were not wonderful (sorry about the blurry photo):
On the way home from work on Friday, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up more food coloring, and I overdyed the yarn:
I did a quick hunt on Ravelry this afternoon and found the perfect pattern. It's elegant, practical, and will look FABulous in this deep color.

Earlier in the week, I finished the Scrunchable cowl.
I love it! I hope the recipient does, too. I then cast on the next cowl using some yarn I had spun. Lots of bright colors, and they're all muddying together, and I think I may just give up on it. Last evening, I cast on another cowl using the leftover dark teal yarn from the sweater I finished in the summer. I promise pictures next week.

This afternoon, I got a good start on the Fruit Salad quilt. Here are the fabrics cut so far:
I was really nervous about how these fabrics would play with each other - whether they were too close together in value, tone, etc. However, as I was selecting fabric, I really focused on the scale of the print and tried to get a range of values. As I look at this picture, I see some darks - the cherries in the strip and the jalapenos in the diamonds, some mediums - most of the rest, and some lights - the white fabric with the red and green splotches. Last week, I thought the leaf fabric in the picture below would be background fabric:
I decided against it because there just would not be enough contrast. I do think there'll be places for all five of these fabrics in this quilt, and I'm looking forward to finding those places as I go along. In case you haven't noticed, I dearly love fabrics with fruits and vegetables. I don't know why, but they make me smile. The top picture has peas in the pod, pineapples, cherries (times two!), citrus fruits, jalapeno peppers, and apples. Also, the selvedge on the edge of the white fabric informs us that name of the fabric is Peas and Carrots! I love it! (The orangey-red fabric in the first picture has turtles on it - not in the theme, but the color is SO right.)

Speaking of SO right, here are a couple of guy pictures. The first one has a ticked-off cat who has just been shoved off a lap (because he'd been biting!) and wanted assert his authority over the woman who had just jilted him.
The next picture is of someone showing excellent taste, lounging on one quilt and in front of another.
Have a good week, folks! Go forth and create!