Monday, February 28, 2011

Cone Nebula Quilt - Section 6

This is basically the last quiet weekend I have until mid-April, so I took advantage of it. I laid out Section 6 on Saturday and sewed it together on Sunday. When I started laying it out, though, I realized that I had run out of a crucial piece of fabric.
 Do you see that pretty leaf-patterned fabric in the earlier section? Basically all I had left of it were the two small triangles at the top of the new section. So, I sighed hard, picked apart some of the earlier section, and integrated the new blue with the leaf blue:
Now, instead of an abrupt transition between the two sections, they're interleaved and look planned. I had just one small triangle's worth of that blue fabric with the musical note, so I was able to use the other small blue leaf triangle some place else, adding to the planned feeling. Here is a picture of the full piece (sorry about the angle, I just wasn't in the mood to stand up on a chair last evening).
In case you're wondering about how these sections fit together, here is the map with the sections numbered.
At this point, I am over half done (most of the sections have three rows, but three of the twelve sections would have to have four rows, and those are done - Sections 3, 4, and 5).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cone Nebula Quilt - Section 5 - sewn down

Last week, I was looking at the black river by the bright halo on Section 5 of the Cone Nebula quilt, and I didn't like what I saw:
So, last Sunday, I swapped in the blue/purple fabric that I thought might work better:
I think this eases the transition between the blue star and its halo, as well as the river on the other side of the star.

I also debated with myself about which side of the fabric I should use for the halo. Here are a couple of pictures that I took during the decision process:
After looking at this "live" and through the camera, I decided to keep it as I had originally, with the reverse side of the fabric showing. The fabric has a little too much green in it on the front side, and I thought that distracted from the bright blue.

Next, here is a close-up picture of the corner area. The fabric had a cross-hatch pattern woven into it, and I dyed it a bright green before over-dyeing it black. I love how the weave shows through, along with the different layers of color.

Finally, I have been knitting along on the Every Way Wrap, but not very fast. Here is its current state:

There is a 16-row repeat, and I have done 4 of those repeats (of at least 16). This week, I decided that I would set a goal of one repeat per week until this is done, and I won't be allowed to work on dish cloths until I've done my 16 rows for the week. I also want to make another pair of socks.....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cone Nebula Quilt - Section 5

Last Saturday I got together with some friends for a day of sewing. Our quilt guild makes quilts for the people who pass through the local domestic violence shelter. Each person gets to choose a quilt to use while at the shelter and to take upon departure. I think of these quilts as being tangible signs of the community supporting these folks in their desperate hour. In about six work hours, we were able to complete an entire top and all-but-the-borders of a second top. The gal who organized the day had a plan, she had made all of the fabric choices, and all the rest of us had to do was show up and work. We were SO proud of ourselves. Of course, I forgot to take pictures.

On the other hand, with a design wall at the end of a long room, I was able to pin up the four sections of the Cone Nebula quilt and actually see how it's coming along!
I think I'm in love! Well, after seeing this, I went into the sewing room on Sunday and laid out the next section. This is the section to the right of the top half of the section in this picture.
Do you see what I see? I have that bright star in the corner, butting up against a deep black. You know, I didn't see that until I looked at these pictures. Isn't that funny? That black fabric is so obviously wrong there, but as I was laying it all out, it seemed fine. This morning, after looking at these pictures, I went upstairs and auditioned a lighter fabric. So, here's the current choice:

Here's an alternate choice. (I apologize for not putting the white sheets over the bulk of it.)
Sigh. This means that before I start sewing together blocks, I'll get to cut out a few dozen triangles today or tomorrow. On the other hand, if I sewed this section together with that black fabric there, I would always know that it was wrong, and that I knew it was wrong, etc. The mottled blue-purple is much lighter in value and closer to the black-green (other side of the star) in both value and pattern. The black has little gold stars on it, but these pictures show that it reads deep black. I'll find another place for that fabric in this quilt.

Speaking of color value, I also experimented with different fabrics for the area surrounding the bright blue star. I knew I wanted that bright blue fabric as the focal point, but I didn't really have a plan for its "halo." In my scavenging through my stash, I came across a chunk of fabric that had possibilities, and here it is with the "right" side of the fabric showing:

Here it is with the reverse side showing:
I laid out the star both ways (forgetting to take pictures, grrr), and it was clear that the contrast was greater with the reverse side showing. It might be too much contrast, and the "big picture" pictures tell me that I'm not done thinking about this. I may have to take some more pictures in order to figure this out.

This week, I needed a break from the two big projects I have going - the Cone Nebula and the Every Way Wrap - no picture this week; it's a few rows longer than the last time you saw it. So, noticing that the dishcloths were looking pretty ratty, I had the following exchange with Hubby Dearest:

Me: When we're at [local non-WallyWorld superstore] on Monday, we need to pick up some cotton yarn for dishcloths.
Hubby: You know that [l n-WW ss] sells premade dishcloths don't you?
Me: Yes, but none have been made by me.

I see the logic, don't you? The way I figure it is that for $1.69 and about a dozen hours of meeting and TV time, I get three dishcloths that are unique to my household. Here's the first one:
 My rule is that unless the mistake makes it unusable, I don't rip back. It gives me a chance to play with patterns, learn some new techniques, and get something useful in a pretty short time period. This was seriously just two evenings of work. On the other hand, when I was trying to set up those first few rounds (cast on four stitches across four needles....), a certain someone got annoyed that my lap didn't belong to him. Here is a shot of him looking impossibly cute last Sunday (when I was taking multiple pictures of him instead of cuddling him, Hubby said, "Smile pretty for Mommy's blog!"):
This morning, before I came down to work on this, I fed the cats. Now, the Princess Kitty has special dishes (which came with her when she moved into the house), and everyone else has dishes from a set. Soon after we put the food down, though, she and Big Guy trade places; it seems to be a mutual agreement, and we've never seen them argue about it. I think they're darling, in case you couldn't tell.
In the last couple of weeks, I have read novels by Joshilyn Jackson (Between, Georgia) and Ruth Rendell (A Sight for Sore Eyes). These are both very good writers, and if you are looking for well-rounded characters in believable situations, check them out.

Jackson's stories are the sorts of stories one would tell around a dinner table - So, Nonny, how did you get your name? Well, let me tell you about the circumstances of my birth.... When I read her books, I feel as though I am having a long chat with an old friend I haven't seen in years.

Rendell's books, on the other hand, are dark and complicated. As I read her novels, I find my heart in my throat about what might happen to a character (and can envision several different paths for each to take). The stories are carefully plotted but without artifice. These are tales told by a masterful storyteller.

Right now, I'm about a day into a novel by Muriel Spark (A Far Cry from Kensington). This is sort of place-holder reading until I figure out which "big" book I want to tackle next. I do love Spark's novels, but in a backwards sort of way. She doesn't write to make you love her; she seems to toss things off, and you only realize afterward how well she led you along her path.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday - #27

Good morning! This is part of a ring that can be found at Tami's blog. Please go check out all of the other great projects there. I didn't post last Wednesday because I was shoveling snow. Southeastern Michigan got far less snow than most of the rest of the country, so I will not complain about the amount we got other than to say that if I had blogged rather than shoveled, we would have stayed home from work or else gotten there very late.

If you read my post on Saturday, you know that I brought some snow into my house and played with dyes.
I think I had too much water versus dye in this project, and on Sunday I ended up squeezing out the two pale pieces, soaking them in soda ash water, and immersing them in the runoff dye. The two pieces with red on them just got more golden yellow. I did love the wonderful colors I got on the darker yellow piece in this picture. Here they are all washed and dried:
The darker yellow piece on the far left is the piece on the lower right in the upper picture. I also had some jar dyes going, looking for some dark fabrics.
Notice the deep purple moiré fabric in the lower left corner. ....
There must be some non-plant-based fiber in that fabric; see the wonderful gray-brown color I got at the end. The three pieces on the far right of the "done" picture are overdyes of the red and blue fabric I did last summer in the infamous flour-paste resist project.

The Cone Nebula quilt is coming right along in its own way. Here is the fourth section:
The arrow indicates a place where I think I should go in and put a deep purple piece. Sigh....
Here are the four sections together (only eight to go!):
Finally, I am still knitting along on the Every Way Wrap. I am so fascinated watching the cables develop.

For your reading pleasure, I would like to direct your attention to this blogpost by a friend of mine. She is a sociology professor at St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Minnesota (I don't even want to think about how much snow they've gotten!), and this post is about how people get on spam e-mail lists.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cone Nebula Quilt, Snow, and Dyeing

First, I want to start with some good news. A week ago on Friday, I got the official letter offering me a position in the new organization scheme at my workplace. My new supervisor's picture has actually appeared in this blog, but the only connection between that statement and the new position is that we trust and respect each other both personally and professionally. She's got her head screwed on straight, and we have worked well together on projects both in the workplace and in the quilt guild. I feel very hopeful about this.

Next, I did finish reading The Warmth of Other Suns this past week. In case it has not been clear from my earlier comments, I recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, in large-scale human stories, and in following people across their lifetimes. This is well written, well researched, and humanistic journalism at its best. It made me think, ponder, reflect, and, most importantly, see the world around me with fresh eyes.

Now, some art! Last Saturday a friend of mine and I joined another woman in the basement of the home of Happy Fuzzy Yarn. Riin led the three of us through the process of dyeing roving. We got to ask her all sorts of questions about anything at all fiber related. It was a very enjoyable four hours, and at the end, we got to take home some roving we had helped dye.

Isn't that pretty? It was utterly fascinating for my friend and me to see the differences in the process of dyeing animal fibers versus dyeing plant fibers. I'm sure we were annoying our teacher, but our comments about the differences helped each of us to imprint the new knowledge we were gaining.

Now, there did come a lull in the proceedings where each of us students couldn't stand to be surrounded by all of the yarny goodness in that basement (the storage place for the gorgeous materials she has in her Etsy and Artfire shops), and we started creating little piles of things that were going to go home with us. I fell for the sock blanks. Basically, these are a pair of socks' worth of yarn knitted on a knitting machine and then either painted by the seller or left blank to be painted by the buyer. I got one of each:
The way this works is that when you are ready to knit your socks, you remove the waste yarn and start unraveling the blank. You then get all sorts of colors that you know look good together showing up in the socks at random. Because she knits the blanks with two strands of yarn, you get identical yarns on the socks as you go along. Pretty nifty, huh?

You may have heard that some snow fell during the week (this picture is from 5:30a on Wednesday morning looking out my front door).
What you may not have thought as you looked at that snow was, "Cool! I get to try that snow dyeing technique I saw in Quilting Arts magazine last winter!" I did, but I didn't feel like digging out the magazine, so what follows is my version, made up of materials I had on hand this morning.

First, I got the two deepest tubs I had in the house (had to move the yarn and roving stash to a cardboard box for the day to free up the taller tub), then I covered them with some cat-claw-proof screening left over from last summer, then I attached the screen to the tubs with duct tape.
I didn't want to cut the screen, so I made do with what I had. Then, I put my fabrics to soaking in a soda ash and hot water bath (not shown) and mixed up my dyes. I wanted some more yellows and some super dark blues and purples for the Cone Nebula quilt. I decided the yellows would be snow-dyed, and the dark colors would not because I was willing to have less color intensity with the yellows. Then, while the fabrics were spin-drying in the washer, I filled up a bucket with snow (ended up having to lug in two buckets full - not bad!).
 Then, using a small dustpan, I dumped a bunch of snow on the screen.
Then, I added the fabric pieces and put snow on top (yes, I am still trying to salvage those pieces from my flour resist experiment from last summer!).
I completely covered the fabric with snow
and started applying the dyes. I had made up small containers full of three different yellow dyes.
Since I doubt any 9-year-old boys read this blog, we will all refrain from the obvious comment at this point.... I went off for a long walk (and got home about an hour after today's snow storm started). About two hours after the dyes were added, the tubs looked like this:
The snow is melting into the tubs, and the dyes have dispersed. I'll show the results in a couple of days. Meanwhile, the dark dyes are doing their thing in some old olive jars. I'll transfer those to an open tub when I finish writing this post. I want the fabric to dry out a bit and soak in more of the dyes.
When I finish fiddling around with the computer and with dyes, I'll head back upstairs to the Cone Nebula quilt. I got all of the fourth section laid out on Sunday afternoon (amazing how, even though I have what seems like a gazillion triangles cut, I never have enough of the right fabric!), and I got the bottom row sewn together. I'm hoping to get the rest of that section sewn together this weekend.
Take a look at the golden yellow fabric in the lower left corner of the second picture (and the lower right corner of the third picture). A few years ago, I took a quilting class through the guild, and at the end of the day as we were packing up, I noticed a hunk of fabric in the garbage can. Well, never one to pass up free fabric, I plucked it out and have used pieces of it in a couple of different projects. The last of that piece was perfect for that part of this project. I was thinking happy, grateful thoughts at whoever discarded that lovely piece of fabric.

Now, I do have to state that my "familiar" was hanging out in the sewing room with me, being sweet and cuddly (which is how she maintains control):
and offering her services as a quilting buddy a little later:
(See her artfully rearranging triangles for me?) This morning, though, when I was playing with chemicals (wearing my dust mask and long latex gloves, of course), she was smart enough to be in the next room, pretending to be an executive.
Okay! That's my catch-up post, and now I have to go attend to dyes and piecing and maybe even try to have dinner ready when Hubby gets home from church in about four hours.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snowbound - NOT!

I work for a very large institution in Michigan that prides itself on never closing. While lesser institutions such as the state legislature might close for the day, my employer expected people to show up to work if they possibly could. I am really good with a snow shovel, and after spending close to an hour and a half yesterday morning (between 5:30a and 7a, if anyone is keeping score), I dug us out enough so that we could leave. Mind you, we live in a condo complex where a contractor comes through and plows our main driving areas as well as the public sidewalks. We clear the space from our front door out to the public sidewalks and then around our vehicles. 80 minutes....

Because so many (wiser) people took vacation days in my building, I had very little to do and was able to leave a little early (I claimed an hour of vacation time to keep everything honest) and went on my usual post-work exercise walk around campus. Crossing the "Diag" on Central Campus, I came across this display that summed up the frustrations of the day: