Saturday, October 30, 2010

Giveaway Results

It's Saturday morning, and I don't want to spend the weekend at the computer, so I'm doing this first thing. Let's purge Liz' stash!

Sarah, the Student Knitter: I'll pop my 6-1/2" squares, the 3" squares, and a couple of fat quarters in the mail to you. I have not kept your address, so please send it to me privately. Thank you.

Lauren at Knitter's Space: I'll send you the 4" and 5" squares and some other larger pieces. Again, I'll need your address, so please send it privately. Thank you.

Faith, the Vampire Slayer: I'll send you the 2-1/2" squares, the 1-1/2" squares (wonderful for learning chain piecing and making 9-patch blocks), and some other larger pieces. I will need your address, sent privately.

If anyone else wants to chime in here, please do so. I'm hoping to go to the post office during my lunch hour on Wednesday with these packages.

Thank you, all, for helping me clear my sewing room!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Pink Lemonade

This post is part of the Blogger's Quilt Festival. The quilt I'm sharing began in a watercolor painting class one evening where I was just playing around, getting to know the paints.
The colors were all swirling around, greens and yellows, and then I slashed some red lines across in a cross-hatch. "Hmm!!" I thought, "That looks like a quilt."

I then knew it would have to be all 2-1/2" squares sewn together. I pulled all of my greens, yellows, reds, and some yellowish oranges out. For someone who likes to have a plan made up ahead, it was a real trick to make this look spontaneous and unplanned. Having to run to a quilt shop in midweek (I did this on a week's sew-cation) to get more red and yellow was an interesting experience. I took the quilt with me to show the folks in the shop. You know how you get SO close to something, you're not sure you see it any more? That's how I felt with this. When I unfolded it, and the gals in the shop gasped in amazement, I knew I had something special.

I made it to donate to our local hospital for a fundraising raffle. The gal in charge of the fundraiser immediately named it "Pink Lemonade." It was queen-sized - about 90" x 110" - and I had it quilted professionally.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday - #12

This is part of a ring of posts that you can find on Tami's site. Thank you, Tami!

This will be a pretty quick post. I've been in head cold/migraine land for the last week or so and am only now feeling as though I'm going to be well again. I do want to say that I woke up this morning and realized that a week from now, we in the US will be awaking to airwaves free of political advertising. I am SO sick of Clown One accusing Clown Two of various half-whispered nefarious deeds and vice versa. Ick, ick, ick!

I went to the Fiber Expo at the county fairgrounds on Saturday (because I'd been looking forward to it, head cold be darned!) and here is what I got:
Yep, some Malabrigo yarn in Teal Feather for me to make up into the Every Way Wrap that was in Interweave Knits a year ago. I took a hard look at my sweater collection and realized that I didn't really have a decent blue sweater. While I was purchasing this from the Busy Hands booth, I bumped into a pal of mine, and we wandered around the rest of the expo. She spotted the roving in this picture and said it would make a great addition to the sweater. I agreed.

I have started on the jacket for my great nephew. I'm using size 6/4mm needles right now. I swatched on 5s last night because I think the fabric is a little loose, and that didn't help much. I may yet swatch on 4s and see about that. I know, real knitters swatch first and then start. snarf, snarf, snarf

In response to last week's post, Vivianne suggested that I do a giveaway on this blog of some of the fabrics I'm purging. That's a great idea! I have boxes of squares - 1-1/2", 2", 2-1/2", 3", etc (up to 6") - just really mixes of fabrics I had on hand when I tried taming the scraps into usable pieces. There are different numbers of squares, different color schemes, etc. If you want these, please leave a comment. If more than one person wants a particular size, I'll divide them up. I also have a batch of circles that I think are about 4" and a bag of half-square triangles (originally 2-1/2" squares, I think). Let me know if you want these.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No More Soul-Sucking Projects!

There is something that happens to people of a certain age: You start noticing that there are fewer sands in the upper half of life's hourglass than in the lower half. There are many ways to respond to this, and my way has been to go read the books I really want to read, to learn skills I've always wanted to acquire, and to hang out with interesting people who have learned a few things.

A few years ago, when a certain person in my life said some truly horrible things to me, I realized that I didn't have to take it any more. It didn't matter how many years she'd been trying to tear me down while I tried to be kind and understanding; she would continue until she succeeded or one of us died. I broke off the relationship. It was hard, as the person means a lot to me; and I have since told her that I would be happy to have a pleasant conversation with her any time she wants to initiate it, but I'm not going to be screamed at and called by ugly names.

This past weekend, I went to the quilting retreat, and when I showed up, I announced that I had an ugly quilt that I was going to quilt and bind before I did anything fun. "Well, that's the way to feed your soul, Liz!" (The "NOT" was implied in the tone of voice.) When I pulled out Mr. Stripey, one of the gals in the group said, "I recognize those blocks." It seems that a now-deceased member of the guild would make batches of blocks in her pattern-of-the-moment and then donate the blocks to the guild for some other poor soul to make into a quilt - never enough blocks for a whole quilt, mind you. My friend said that I had put the blocks to good use (the hexagonal blocks that I divided in half).

As I quilted and bound (finishing up before bed time on Friday evening), I contemplated the comment about "feeding my soul," and I realized that I have a lot of fabrics in my stash that I picked up early on in my quilting career that I no longer like. I also have ugly-to-me fabrics given to me by various good folks. I have been gamely working these into projects over the years, but this weekend, I plan to purge. I plan to move fabrics out of my stash and into a box that will be donated to the quilt guild's charity quilt projects. Maybe someone else will look at these fabrics and say, "Oh, yummy!" Moreover, I am going to go through the boxes of donated fabrics in my basement right now and do some purging there. It's time to stop working with soul-sucking fabrics and on soul-sucking projects.

I also got Peppermint Candy quilted and bound. I would show you pictures, but the pix I have are blurry and not worth the hassle. Trust me. On Saturday morning, we had a field trip to the nearest quilt shop, a delightful shop called Mabelena's in Ortonville. I have lived in Michigan most of my life and in the greater Detroit metropolitan area for most of my adult life, and I would not have been able to make a reasonable guess about the location of this little town. Having spent an hour there, I wouldn't mind going back. The shop was a lot of fun with friendly people. One of the gals who didn't go on the trip needed batteries for her camera, and I was directed to the hardware store an easy two blocks away. The feed store across the street from Mabelena's had locally produced honey and maple syrup. It was a soul-satisfying trip.

I do have to make a confession; I am a sucker for good marketing. How, one might ask, does one get away with selling a fat quarter for $3? When one packages it cleverly. Isn't this cute? I giggled all the way to the register, where I happily handed over nine hard-earned dollars. Utterly darling. (Of course, I am also a sucker for fruit fabrics and have found fun ways of incorporating them into a variety of projects - that's pomegranate on the left, pineapple in the middle, and limes on the right.)

I spent the rest of the retreat playing with some fun scraps I had taken with me, and I actually produced a couple of small projects but only took a picture of one them (about 14 inches on a side).

We had a real variety of projects going, but I'm only showing faces of people who gave me permission to show their faces:

Here's Gayle's labor of love for her daughter (who had picked the fabrics).

Sharon was playing with pretty flowers all weekend.

Deb was working in the theme of red, white, and black.

Sherri was working with some fun colors.

Marge finished her bargello top.

 Erika was tickled pink to finish the 10th-anniversary quilt for her son, just in time for his 13th anniversary!
 I had a chance to work on my Abby hat, and I finished it this week. Here are a couple of beauty shots (it's awfully hard being your own model, and I ended up letting a CD case stand in for the top-down picture).

Now, see those colors in the hat? See how uplifting and life-affirming those colors are? Why, pray tell, would I EVER again choose to work in another palette? Every time I wear this hat, I will feel happy. (Isn't it great how the colors worked into rounds like that? Totally serendipitous, totally fabulous.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work in Progress & What I'm Reading Wednesday - #10

This is part of a ring that can be found on on Tami's blog here.

First off, I want to start with a finished object. I am so ridiculously pleased with myself about this one. We have a room in our basement that a week ago looked like this:

Last Thursday evening I went out and bought a shelving unit. A couple of hours of putting together the unit, sorting, bagging for the trash, sweeping, and organizing brought this result:
Stuff is organized. Stuff I'm never going to use, ever, is gone. There is not cat food littered all over the floor. Proud, yes I am!

I have been knitting on Abby, and I realized a couple of weeks ago that my yarn (my first spinning) is much chunkier and more uneven than the yarn used in the pattern. A cowl this is not realistically going to be; however, it could be a hat for me (I have always had trouble with hat patterns because my head is HUGE). So, I started strategically decreasing. There are two blocks in the pattern on each row, and so I've been alternating blocks in which to do the decrease. By trying to maintain the lace pattern, I've been letting the pattern tell me when to decrease. No, I haven't taken decent notes. Arrrggghh. Here it is, with about half the stitches decreased out. I had to switch to DPNs last evening:
I'm pleased with the way this is working out.

I have the striped quilt top done except for the final trim off the bottom:
(It's 80" long, but you don't want to see the mess in my sewing room.)
The fabric with the vaguely southwest motifs on it? The selvedge says 1980! Wow! I am hoping to whomp together the backing for this before I leave for my quilting retreat this weekend. That way, I'll have two quilts to quilt and bind on the retreat (and I truly hate the quilting part, so my attitude toward that part of the task is to hope for NO THREAD SNARLS!!)

For my book club, I finished reading over the weekend a lovely book about Korea during the Japanese occupation (that ran 1907-1945). The Calligrapher's Daughter is a haunting, elegiac novel about a young girl born in the early years of the occupation. She grows up in the strictures of an upper class family, becomes friends with a princess, lives in grinding poverty for a time, and keeps on being an independent, thinking person. The novel is based on the life of the author's mother, and you really should check out the gallery of pictures at the link above. I really really really liked this book. Last night, I said to the woman who had suggested we read it, "I feel as though my world is broader and deeper because I spent a week inside this book. Thank you."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday - #9

First off, please check out Tami's blog to see everyone participating in this fun "Work in Progress Wednesday."

I finally got back to the project I am now calling "Trapezoid Strip Quilt." Basically, I got a packet from our guild's "Make a Quilt for SAFE House" kit program. The stars of my kit were these blocks:
I knew I didn't want to make more blocks, especially after I saw the really impressive hand piecing:
So, then, on one of my long walks (where I do my best thinking), I got the brilliant idea to split the blocks, so I did this with six of the blocks:

I enclosed the blocks with long skinny strips. Between these strips, I am going to create some long "brick" strips using these blue fabrics:

 I'll also add strips with this fabric:
This quilt is really making me think and plan and stretch - it is SO outside of my comfort zone in terms of colors, but I think I can make something to be proud of, and it will warm a little kid whose world has been torn apart by domestic violence, and that matters to me, too.

I'll be going on a quilting retreat October 15-17, and I'm planning to finish this quilt that weekend AND quilt and bind Peppermint Candy. Here it is, all pinned and showing the binding fabric:
I chose the backing fabric because it had some pink and green in it, and there was enough that I needed to make just one cut and make one seam. (I know, LAZY!!) I have decided it will also be a SAFE House quilt.

Next, I have been working away on Abby, but as you can see, the yarn I'm using is not appropriate for a "lacy" feel. I was fiddling with it the other day and realized that it would make a really warm and pretty hat, so I've started decreasing it with that end in mind. I'll have enough yarn left over for a warm and skinny scarf.
Finally, because none of you has ever seen a cat, I present pictures of three of mine. First up, the shyest, most skittery of the bunch - we had to take her to the vet for shots on Saturday, and it took two of us to trap her in the bedroom, where we had to upend the boxspring, and haul her out of the springs. Poor little thing. Here she is, shedding her white fur all over one of our black chairs:
Next up, there are times when it's really hard to climb the stairs around here!
He's fifteen-and-a-half, going deaf, and as cuddly as can be.

Finally, when I'm in the sewing room, I have a friend, the Brat Cat, who occasionally shows why we let her get away with all of her brattiness. Tell me you wouldn't let this face get away with everything.
I've put up a couple of pretty heavy posts the past week. I'll simply say that I was really influenced by a poster I saw in college with a quote attributed to Bob Dylan (please pardon the sexist language - it was a different time), "He who is not busy being born is busy dying." I've lived my adult life by that statement.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Journey Continues - more thoughts

I have been blessed in my life with wise women. Last week, one of my dear friends, who I'll call Adrian, read my Wednesday post and sent me a long, thoughtful private e-mail in which she conveyed her own thinking about these subjects over the years. On Friday evening, a couple of friends and I took Hubby Dearest out for his birthday. One of those friends is a Dominican sister, who I'll call Cathy. As we got caught up on our various weeks, I made a mention of some of the issues I've been working through. This was not a surprise to Cathy as she talked me down from a particular limb about five years ago when I said, "If Cardinal Rat gets elected Pope, I'm leaving the Church." At that time, Cathy had said, "At that point, aren't you just conceding the field?" Hmmm..... (Of course, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger soon after became Pope Benedict XVI, and I'm still here.) Similarly, a couple of years ago when our new bishop came to our parish and told us, in the middle of the liturgy, to change a distinctive feature of our parish's liturgy, and I nearly roared out of my seat to tell him off, it was Cathy who quietly said, "Sit down, Liz." (I did, and ended up writing him a letter talking about diversity of cultures meeting in a campus ministry parish.) On Friday evening, she said, "Liz, I'm not letting them drive me off."

Then, on Saturday, I checked in on the blog of an old friend. The story of Sister Rose working with women in the Caribbean got into my head. That afternoon, I sent a long answer to my friend, Adrian, in which I listed some of the issues I'm having. I realized that it sounded whiny and adolescent. As Adrian pointed out, every organization is made up of imperfect people, and there are always things we aren't going to like. As I reflected to my friend on Saturday, I started talking about how very Catholic I am in so many disparate areas of my life.

Some years ago, I read a piece by Andrew Greeley, who talked about the "Catholic imagination," the peculiar way in which Catholics see and experience the world. I'm sorry I can't point you to a specific piece, but so much of his writing is infused with this idea that one could start anywhere. Basically, there is a sense that the world is a glittering place full of mystery and wonder and hidden joy. All around us is evidence of the birth-death-resurrection cycle, and our job in life is to discover this evidence. At dark moments such as the one I'm going through, I find myself stepping back and saying, "Ah. I see where I am at the moment. I wonder what old thing is dying inside me and what fresh thing is waiting to be born."

About 20 years ago, I had the great good privilege of hearing Chaim Potok speak at the Jewish student center in Ann Arbor. He talked about culture as being like one of those large balls used in cooperative games. Many people interact only with the surface of the culture, still others live partway in, and others live at greater and greater depths in the ball. He told a story about being in a park and seeing a young Hasidic girl (a girl living very deeply in a larger-society-shunning culture) encounter a collie dog. "Lassie!" she exclaimed. This, he said, was a sign of the pervasiveness of some aspects of the larger culture. When it was time for questions and comments, I stood up and said, "Mr. Potok, I want to thank you for making me a better Catholic." There were gasps, and people visibly drew back from me. I went on, "Because of your books about people digging deeply into their Jewish culture, I've had to turn and look deeply at my own culture and see what treasures I can find. I have asked hard questions and deliberately moved more deeply because I've had the examples of your characters." By the time I finished, he was rocking back and forth, with a huge grin on his face. "Thank you. I have hoped that people would react like this to my books. Thank you for telling me this!"

On Sunday morning, I talked to another wise woman I know before Mass. We talked about my mother, now dead almost seven years, another wise woman. At Communion time, when I was standing behind the altar, preparing to help distribute Communion, I was standing next to my friend's husband, a wise and good man. I looked out at the assembly (I go to the old fogies' 8:30 Mass) and saw so many people who have lived through so much and come in on Sunday morning for community and refreshment and a little wisdom. (The homily was about focusing on the simple things and finding wisdom there - how very appropriate to my state of mind.)

On the way home from Mass, I said to Hubby dearest, "I don't think I can walk away from all of this. I'm still angry and upset, but I'm Catholic to the very depth of my being." He reached over, took my hand, and said, "You don't have to go through this alone. You have people around you who care." I spent a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon cutting down a thorny quince bush in my yard and planning the brick patio that will go in that spot next spring. As I worked, I listened to a new podcast, The Knit Wits, and got to the point where I was doubled over with laughter, almost choking, tears running down my face. Life is good. As Rory Cooney's song says, "This journey is our destiny."