Where Have I Been? What Have I Been Doing?

Well, I’ve been working away at my usual crafts. Just not taking time to blog about it. I’ll try to catch up with everything this week. But one thing I’ve been working on consistently is that big quilt that I was using a pattern for. The quilt was published in The Quilt Life magazine six years ago!

First I quilted all the churn dash blocks.

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Next I drew hundreds of pomegranate designs on the quilt and quilted them.

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Then it was time to add a couple of big rows of leaves and vines.

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And THEN there were two big rows of feathers. I also decided to put feathers all the way around the outside border. That is the only change I made in the quilt.

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And finally (even though you could see them in the previous pictures,) I started adding hundreds and thousands of bubbles to outline the pomegranates and leaves. Just about every day I would spend some time working on these. My eyes got very tired, and I asked my long arm friend about it. She said I needed to blink my eyes more!

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And then on Friday, all of a sudden, I was done with all the bubbles! Saturday I put the binding on and washed it. I am too short, so even though I was standing on a stepladder, I couldn’t get a great picture of the finished quilt. But you can get the idea. Just in time to keep me warm all winter. Its fun having a quilt that hangs over the edges of the bed more than most of my quilts do.

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I’m working on several projects (of course) and am enjoying spinning and knitting as well. I’ll post a few more times this week to try to catch up on my projects.

 

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Equipment and Distraction

One thing most crafters have in common is a love of new equipment. Especially if it is equipment that can make life easier for you. I enjoy turning a skein of yarn into a nice ball of yarn. But holding it over my knees is not that fun. My rug hooking friend told me about this table top swift that he found on eBay. So of course I had to check it out. The only swifts I had ever seen were ones that clamp onto something, which is sometimes not so convenient. I love this table top swift. It holds the yarn nicely, and when you are done, it folds up and doesn’t take up much room.

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And then… And then I decided to bring my spinning wheel back into the house… Oh my. There’s the Distraction. Spinning your own yarn is so fun, and so pleasurable. After I brought it in, nothing but spinning got done for almost two weeks.

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I found some variegated green roving that would work well for the redwood trees on my current rug, and I spun that up. To make a balanced yarn, you usually spin up two bobbins of thread and then ply them together, and voila!

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You have a beautiful skein of yarn.

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Here’s how I’m incorporating it into the rug. I like the way it looks.

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And then… then I found about 8 ounces of a fiber blend I made long ago. I used to make fiber blends and sell them at spinning and weaving events. I called this one Apple Blossoms. It is 40% angora (rabbit,) 30% silk, and 30% merino wool. Its oh so soft, and it brings back such good memories for me.

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So now I’ve got the spinning bug out of me for a wee bit, and I am back to working on my rug. There’s only a few weeks before Cambria Pines Rug Camp, and I want to get more of it done before I go. Because at rug camp I will be starting an entirely new rug!

In the next two weeks, I am hoping to get back in the studio to do a bit of quilting and piecing, and also, I want to dye some wool and silk before I leave for camp. After camp I have big plans to make a fiber blend and get to spinning that. I’m sure you’ll hear more about that in the next few months šŸ™‚

Merry Christmas to All!

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This year the word I seem to use most often is relaxing. I say to others, “I hope you have a wonderful relaxing Christmas!” I wish the same to all of you, my friends.

For unto us a child is born,

Unto us a son is given.

and the government shall be upon his shoulder.

And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,

The Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.

A Mystery

On Sunday I doodled this in my journal:

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Do all of you have a box of two inch squares? I love my box, and it has come in handy so many times. Truth is, I have so many two inch squares, I now have two boxes of them. Whenever I get to the end of a project and there are good scraps left, I cut them into two inch squares. When I cut the excess backing fabric off of a finished quilt, more two inch squares.

Okay, so choosing the path of least resistance (pre-cut pieces, and sitting in my easy chair) I chose to try doing this by hand stitching with the box of two inch squares. Each cross takes 5 two inch squares. I found quickly that the easiest way to keep from being confused was to stitch the crosses, and THEN join them.

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When I have done single motif hand stitched quilts in the past (hexagons and diamonds) I have always joined a certain amount and then started another piece, simply because it was easier to handle smaller pieces of fabric. So that’s what I did here.

And I found that there is NO WAY to join these pieces without leaving one or two block empty spots. There’s got to be some mathematical reason for this…

Now you can see in my doodles, that I actually drew the crosses with spaces in between them. I also took some graph paper last night and tried to figure out what the problem is. It is actually hard to DRAW the crosses without leaving empty spaces between them. It is not hard to sew them together without empty spaces.

For now, it is an experiment (albeit an experiment that I have spent a good part of the week on.) I could choose to leave spaces on purpose (that I could easily fill in with more two inch squares.) Or I can just work on joining them together into one continuous quilt. I do like them joined the way I have them now. If any of you want to try this, I can tell you that it seems that to be joined without “spaces,” you either need to join 3 or 6 sides, if that makes sense.

 

Weekend Fun

Did you know that this weekend is International Quilting Weekend? The Quilt Show is opening ALL 220 of their shows for the whole weekend! You can check out all your favorite quilt artists to your heart’s content, all for free. Here’s the link to how to do it. There is also a huge contest with lots of great prizes that you can enter for free. I am still a huge fan of TQS, and look forward to the new video that comes out every two weeks.Ā If you haven’t already seen it, my show is number 1512.

Can’t Stop Knitting……..

I have lots to tell you about. But it seems I can’t stop knitting long enough to write a real post…

When I was in Anaheim for my rug hooking retreat, my friend Shelley wroteĀ about a new knitting project she was working on–a blanket made out of leftover yarn and mitered squares. Before I became a quilter I spun and knit all the time, and mitered squares were one of my favorite techniques. I do still have lots of leftover yarn from my knitting days, and now I can’t stop. Just one more square….

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If you haven’t tried mitered square knitting, don’t start. I’m warning you. Its addicting.

I’ll be back later to catch you up on other projects I am working on.

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My Hands

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about “needing” something to hand sew (embroider) in the evenings. Vickie asked about how my hands were holding up. Actually, I wanted something to hand embroider on BECAUSE of my hands.

I had carpal tunnel surgery five years ago. Before having the surgery done, I had carpal tunnel syndrome for about 10 years. Carpal tunnel affects different people in different ways. For me, it meant that I just couldn’t do any handwork before noon (my hands would go numb)…and of course, it did hurt if I used my hands for too long. I got carpal tunnel from knitting (literally) hundreds of hats on circular needles, which kept your wrists bent in a non-ergonomic way. I would wake up with my hands in that same cramped position.

So now, I am very aware of my hands. I want to keep using them as long as possible. And that is why I wanted something to hand embroider. If I have several different types of handwork to do, I can rotate, and each thing uses my hands in a different way. I was knitting and making yo yo’s a lot, and knew I needed to vary what I was doing. Hand embroidery, as long as I am using good fabric (NOT batik, too tight a weave) and nice batting (really nice cotton or wool) is easy on my hands.

I do most of my binding by machine. My BF did give me these clips, which are really helpful. Recently I used them when I whipped the edge of a rug. They eliminate the need for pinching the fabric together, which I find hard on my hands. Here is a link to my yo yo maker. They are fun and addicting to make. That’s why I needed something else to work on šŸ™‚

The Best Christmas Present

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on the Hallelujah! quilt, Maria Shell wrote about making Christmas gifts, and she generously offered to send her Artful Oven Mitt pattern to commenters. I had been quite intrigued by her oven mitts, and although I am a dismal garment sewer, I was hopeful that I could make these. What fun gifts they would be! I immediately thought of about 20 people who might appreciate receiving an Artful Oven Mitt!

And sure enough. Maria’s pattern is very well written, and when I followed the directions carefully, my first artful oven mitt was finished! It went straight into the box headed for my BF, and arrived in plenty of time before Christmas.

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I call receiving this oven mitt pattern “the best Christmas present” because I really just needed something colorful and not too hard after working for months on a neutral colored quilt. I had so much fun digging through some scraps and getting out other fabrics to make oven mitts for friends and family.

Here’s a Christmas-themed one for my friend who really likes Christmas:

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Another friend gave me some designer fabric samples, and I used those to create two more colorful mitts.

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I also started another one, but mistakenly drew the pattern (with a sharpie marker) the same on both sides. I like the lining fabric I was usingĀ so much that I just sewed the one that had sharpie marks wrong side out for a mitt for myself šŸ™‚

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And one more for good measure. I love this Starry Starry Night fabric that I got at Joann’s. You might see that I have used some orphan blocks in some of the mitts.

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Maria is offering her pattern for $10.00, which includes shipping from Alaska! Just email her. The full size pattern for the mitt is included, so you don’t have to figure out how to enlarge a pattern. The insulbright (heat resistant batting) Ā is available at Joann’s (use your 50% coupon) or at Amazon. Here’s another of Maria’s posts about her process.

The studio is a mess of insulbright and colorful scraps. I am going to give myself a few more days of oven mitt creation, and then the STUDIO WILL BE CLEANED for the New Year. I have a few new ideas I am anxious to try out, as well as that series that I started on the Character of God.

Happy New Year to one and all!

And in the Evening…

At some point mid-day, I am usually done in the studio. Either I’ve started early in the morning, and I’m ready for my afternoon coffee break, or I stop what I’m doing and go to the gym.

After that, its time to sit in my chair and indulge in some mindless stitching. Back in July, I told you about my “obsession” with making a kanthaĀ blanket. Most of the time I stitched on this, I was thinking about how it wasn’t a very good composition, and why was I spending so much time stitching on something that I wouldn’t even like when it was done. But my BF encouraged me, saying that the stitching would pull it all together.

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When I could see that an end was in sight, I stitched more consistently. It was very relaxing and enjoyable to work on. I used a very light weight cotton gauze for the “batting” and plain muslin for the backing. This made it very easy to stitch through all three layers.

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You can probably see–I had one main color of thread (I ordered five spools of the #8 perle cotton in that color) and then I added bits of other colors in the turquoise range, and some oranges, and one lime green. Whatever color I chose, I carried it all the way across the blanket.

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Here is the only place I changed the stitching direction, just for a bit of fun.

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You can see I used mostly prints, but I made a few of my cross cut squares, and a few with circles to add to the interest.

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Pretty much the whole time I worked on this, I was mad at myself for choosing muslin as the backing. How boring! But now that it is done, I like itĀ the muslin back.Ā I can see the stitching, I can see the “mistakes,” and I like that.

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When all the stitching was done, I chose one of the multi-color fabrics to use as a binding. I sewed the binding to the back, and hand-stitched it down to the front. And then the part I like the best–I washed it! After washing it (on delicate cycle, because I wasn’t sure about those long stitches,) it is so soft and cozy. I laid it out on my bed, to see it as a whole piece, and my BF was right–the stitching pulls all those colors and prints together. I really like it. Its nice to like a project when you have spent so much time on it šŸ™‚

A Juki Adventure

It sounds so much better to call it an adventure, instead of a bloody nightmare, doesn’t it? When I last left you, I believe I was hopeful that Meissner’s Sewing in Sacramento was going to be able to help me. And I have to give huge kudos to Meissner’s. Within 3 minutes of calling and asking to speak to the service department, I was talking to J., a very knowledgeable service guy. Turns out, yes, they do service Juki’s, but not the long arms. And especially if they are under warranty. So it was back to the dealer that I bought it from.

I’ve decided not to name them here, because essentially I’m a nice person. But this dealershipĀ provided absolutely horrible service. In my very first call, IĀ asked to speak to the service department, and it was an entire WEEK, and so many phone calls before that ever happened. In the mean time, there was a lot of hemming and hawing, and broken promises. And here’s the thing. On the FIRST day I spoke to a young man at that store, he said, “I’ll talk to Elbert, he knows everything about the Juki TL2200.” Read on, and remember that name.

So after I found out that Meissner’s couldn’t help me, and it became clear that I would get no help from the dealer that I bought it from, I looked once again at the Juki website for a phone number. When I had looked a few days before, there was no phone number listed, and I did sendĀ a pitiful email asking if anybody was interested in helping me. So this time (its now been a week since I first started trying to get help) I saw a phone number. I call Juki,Ā and I ask to speak to the service department. They transfer me, and a REAL PERSON answers the phone. I explain about the alarm, and this nice patient manĀ tells me “unplug this and this and detach this, and put the needle in the down position. Now turn the machine on and count how many beeps before it pauses.” And sure enough, it did pause, and he said, “it sounds like the motor. Now you need to call B.” And then this nice, knowledgeable man says, “I’m Elbert.” Screaming inside. A whole week ago, the dealership knew exactly who to talk to about this problem, but they just kept doing nothing.

Now, once again, I had to play phone tag/multiple emails etc., before I finally got to talk to B. Seems B. is a busy guy, and he is the only one who REPLACES THE MOTOR in this Juki. Yes, my Juki needs a new motor. And to rub salt in this wound, I believe that it needed it from the start. Remember, when I was setting the machine up, that same alarm went off. At that time, I sent an email to the Juki rep, asking about the alarm. He never answered me.

This adventure is not over yet. But the Juki IS in the mail (after MORE multiple phone calls asking for the mailing label.) B. says I’ll get the machine back in two weeks. Hahahaha. That’s two weeks of service-man’s time. I am hoping to get it back in a month.