15 December 2014

The Calm In Hand Work

I love sewing at my machine during the day, but after five o'clock I equally enjoy the prospect of doing handwork. I look to enjoying the calming pleasure of simple blanket stitches. This simple stitch somehow manages to look so different depending upon what thread I use. It's a simple fascination!
I have become a fan of Bonnie Sullivan's "Bertie". This little flannel bird and his whimsical antics are just so dang cute! I have "Bertie's Year" which I am working on sporadically and this little project is "Bertie's Winter". The "Winter" version is what I have been working on recently - perhaps logically!

Admittedly, I am not too much of a "cute" kind of gal so it is a bit of a mystery why I am enjoying this hand stitching so much. In the past I have also not been a fan of anything that smacks of "Block-Of-The-Month", but there is, indeed, something to be said for having the pieces already perfectly cut and ready to go. I can always change fabrics, add my own wools or otherwise customize the pieces if I choose to after all!

Although this sort of project is not much of an 'imagination bender', I do find that having handwork ready to go is a soothing way to spend an evening. In the end, I will enjoy having a seasonal wall hanging - it will be especially nice since I don't do much decorating for the holidays these days. My stitching is made "as easy as it gets" thanks to Shabby Fabrics. They provide the pattern with all of the pieces pre-cut nd ready to go! I may never be a true fan of "block-of-the-months" but, I have to admit, that I am thoroughly enjoying this easy way to spend an evening in mindful stitchery. 

There are still some more blocks to be stitched and, of course, beads to add, but I decided that to make the quilting easier it would be good to wait until all of the stitching and quilting is done before the beads go on!

09 December 2014

Hexagons Are Like Potato Chips or How Red Is The New Neutral

I have to admit that I am a sucker for scrap quilts. I have always loved making them and sleeping under them! Since I divested myself of many bags of fabric last year my scrap box has become considerably smaller, and, let's face it, one person's scrap is another person's fat quarter. My scraps tend to be quite small. 

I have never considered making a hexagon quilt before. The shape has never intrigued me. When Sujata Shah's book, Cultural Fusion, came out I bought it and then I had to have a look at her website where I found her insructions for making her "Organized Chaos" quilt. I can't say that I plan to make "Organized Chaos" as presented, but I have become addicted to making hexagon blocks. 
I turned my scrap box upside down and started choosing bits and pieces. Technically one needs pieces that are 2.5" and 2.5" X 4.5". Easy... but some of mt smaller scraps made even those small sizes a challenge to find! Red is my neutral color. It goes with just about everything hat I use and so I did buy yardage of American Made Brand Cotton in Light Red.

My problem is that making these blocks is that I cannot stop making them. I have holiday gifts to finish and another project to get started on that is important, but making these blocks is like a siren song that just keeps calling to me!
I did invest in a KaleidoRuler from Marti Michell. It makes forming these blacks a breeze! I am a gadget girl and if there is a tool that makes my life easier I will try it! Her rulers are made to work - they are very well made of thick, quality, plastic and the indelible markings will last for your quilting lifetime!
Marti Michell's Kaleido Ruler (large size) - the end that forms the blocks.
The other end of the tool forms the corner triangles equally easy!
These blocks make pressing seams open crucial. With so many points coming together, you need to reduce the bulk as much as possible. I used my tailor's ham at first and then decided to try this new to the marker, Strip Stick. It really helps the pressing go quicker and more perfectly. I also like using  a regular seam roll for this purpose, but the strip stick is an excellent tool to have. It's a rounded hard wood stick covered with a padded cover. That makes it easy to get the seams to lie flat and press well. For thinner cottons, like some brands of shot cottons, I use starch as well. Of course, these tools are not at all necessary, but the do make the prssing easier and I like that!
Now that I have gone on about how much simple pleasure making these scrap blocks is providing me with, I had better get back to my regularly scheduled sewing- since projects needs completing and I need some more scraps to work with! 

Below - the bottom, flat side of the Strip Stick

05 December 2014

Recent Constuctions

I have to say that having a break from blogging was beneficial in some ways. I went about me sewing busy-ness with not a thought about documentation. I barely managed to get photos of a lot of things. Of course, that's good and bad!

I finished the quilt in the photo on top. It's from Kaffe Fassett's book, "Shots and Stripes". I had gotten he book and the fabrics for this quilt when I was on Vashon Island for "Camp" last April. It felt great to decide on a project and finish it in the same year! It's being quilted now. I had the material so I did not spend any more on this on! It measures about 79" X 96"
 The quilt above was finished and quilted and I am working on the binding now. It's from the book "Making Quilts With Kathy Doughty of Material Obsessions". I used 90% stash fabrics for this quilt. It measures about 96' X 108'. I wanted to use my reproductions fabric stash in a  modern way. I think it worked out well. I have now made three large bed quilts from my reproduction stash nd there is still more to use. It's great to reduce the amount of fabric that I have...it gives me an "excuse" to buy a bit more! I have to take a phot of it now tha the quilting is done!
This knit shawl was a mystery knit from Sivia Harding. It's beaded and pretty and I learned some new stitches in the making of it.  It's an odd shape though - sort of wedge shape - and I have not figured out how best to wear it yet. It may be remade into something else.

These are Clover Wonder Clips. I have been interested in trying them for some years now, but I found that the price was a bit high and I was not convinced that they would be any better than what I had been using. DH gifted me with these. I found them in these lovely multi colors and for a reasonable price too! I have to admit that they DO work very well, better than what I had been using for certain.  I have been using them for quilt bindings and for holding the thick layers of the bags I have been making. Plus, I love these shiny colors... offering these in multi-colors was a good move for Clover!
When I make bags I often need a lot of small tools that I like to have close by. I also tend to use two different needles sizes. I kept knocking things off accidentally with my elbow or they somehow found they way onto the floor rather than into my hand. I decided to try this easy fix. I cut a piece of shelf lining and placed it right on the side of my machine. The small items stay put, don't mar the surface of the machine, and I can easily keep the extra needle tucked into the material. No more "lost" tools and they are right where I need them when I need them!

Tilly is wishing everyone a happy holiday season... I had to laugh when I took this photo. She was beginning to look irritated that I was getting too close to her carefully placed selection of toys!

01 December 2014

Exciting News !

I have been absent from the blogosphere for some time. In all honesty, I had/have been struggling about the benefits of blogging. Let's face it. It takes time, energy and effort. Many people seem to want sound bites such Face Book. Although many friends assure me that blogging has not gone by the wayside and that they do read blogs - I was questioning it all. One of my friends even asked if I will ever blog again. So, the answer is yes! I do have some other things to share soon, but this is my biggest news right now and so I want to share the information first

I first met Virginia Spiegel quite a few years ago in Houston when she hosted her very successful "Fiber Arts For A Cause Postcard Fund Raiser". Aside from being a world renowned artist, Virginia has been an energetic fund raiser for The American Cancer Society for many years. To date, she has raised more than $240,000.00 through Fiber Arts For A Cause! 

Virginia attracts the very best works and so, when she contacted me awhile ago about being one of "The 100" for this years fund raiser I was a bit shocked and quite delighted!

I am, therefore, honored to be an invited artist for "The 100". The event will be held on Wednesday, February 4, 2015. The goal for this fiber fundraiser for the American Cancer Society is to raise $10,000 in one day.

How could this happen? 

Would you like to be a part of this amazing fund raising event? The recipients of these exclusive fiber art works will be part of a very select group. The invited artists are from the creme de la creme of fiber artists. 

One hundred patrons will be randomly assigned artwork from this extraordinary line-up of international fiber artists. As I mentioned, Fiberart For A Cause has already raised $240,000 through the generosity of both fiber artists and patrons. I am quite certain that this event will, indeed, meet its goal of raising another $10,000.00 in just one day through the generous donations of people like you my friends.

Not all of us have the funds to be able to donate what we would like to, but every bit helps. Even if you are not able to manage this particular event, please have a look at Virginia's site for more information about Fiber Arts For A Cause and Virginia's fund raising efforts. I do not know of many people who have not, in one way or another, been touched by this awful dis-ease. Every bit helps fund research efforts. We really do need to find cures and funding research is the only way to accomplish that.

Thank you for supporting Fiberart For A Cause.
When generous fiber artists and patrons join together, wonderful things happen!

02 October 2014

What September?

This is what I tried to do in September!
It seems that September passed me by - at least in the blogging sense. One friend said that she had stopped checking in because it had been so long. I plea guilty! 

I have been on a bit of a social networking slow down. It began in early September. When I went on a retreat for a few days in mid-September I inadvertently forgot BOTH my cell phone as well as my IPad (which had all of my knitting patterns on it). I had to borrow a phone to check in with home every day, which was an embarrassment. I think that I can pretty much guarantee that I won't forget my phone again! That weekend set the tone for my media slow down though. I barely glanced at FaceBook or any other social networking site all month. I did not feel as though I was missing a lot though and that surprised me a little. I just found a bit more time in the day to actually work!

Hopefully, these images will show that I was not being a total slug during the month. I imagine that much of this will be old hat news for some of you!
One side of my donation quilt for a child.
It's an easy, adorable, Strawberry flower fairy.

Every year, as part of our community outreach, our Guild donates quilts to a school. The school is located in the Pike Place Market area in Seattle (not really local for us but we have been doing this for many years now). The pre-school is for the children of the working poor. The quilts are intended for the children to take with them when the 'graduate' to kindergarten.
The other side contains the flower fairy alphabet.
I continued with my leaf and flower printing experiments although I have to get back on the stick and catch some of the luscious fall colors that are popping out now. The leaves are Oregon Grape and the flower is a Zinnia type. The original color was a lush, brilliant, purple. My friend, Lauren, assures me that she has the tag from them so that I can grow some next year!
Mid month featured our annual retreat. Considering that I had only begun to get out and about again a week or two before this event I was thrilled to feel well enough to go. I did overdo just a bit but I simply HAD to make use of the spacious design walls at the retreat house. I took a few days to recover once I got home but I was so happy to have been there with good friends and laughter!
Behind my head you can just make out part of a
fabulous piece  Linda Cooper, was working on.
 It's patriotic with a definite design twist!
My project was this "fractured" quilt from the "Making Quilts" by Kathy Doughty. This quilt was made with 90% fabrics from my stash. I cleaned out all of my reds, yellows, oranges and blacks.  I can't fit the whole quilt into a photo, but the quilt is about 100" X 110" with it's black border (not shown here). I love using traditional fabrics in a slightly non-traditional way.
 Below is a beautiful little gem made by friend, Janet Wright. I think that her use of the pattern and the colors all add up to a fresh, modern feel for this piece. We were all amazed at how the gradient border fabric (shown top and right) gave the impression of light coming in from an outside source. These amazing fabrics are from the E.E.Schenck Daiwabo Gradients line and I hope that they will not discontinue making them!
 Below: This cheerful quilt was made by Tori Benz-Hillstrom. She considers herself to be a beginner quilter, but she has that natural ability  to do things right that has already made her an 'expert'. Aside from finishing this during our short 3 day stay she also pieced another whole 'sofa' sized top!  
 Below: Another friend, Judy, was making these special 60 degree (?) table runners. They requite a special tool (60 degree ruler?). She got Tori interested in making them too. I have to admit that they look really great don't they?!
 Below: Liz made this wonderful "Professional" tote bag.  had made one of these some years ago. The pattern is beautifully done. It's just of those that you need to follow precisely and not think too much about as you make it. Liz's tote came out looking professional indeed both in workmanship as well as in color scheme.
Not too long after our retreat I visited Liz and noticed this amazing quilt on the wall. She designed the crow patterns herself and cut them out meticulously. I am in love with this quilt and might be tempted to take it home with me. It is an amazing piece and I think that it deserves much more attention!
Also in September I participated in a Mystery Knit Along with Sivia Harding through Ravelry. This is called the "Liken Shawl" and the design was inspired when Sivia found a beautiful piece of shelf Lichen during a visit to my fair island. Of course, I had to make this shawl! This photo shows only the first two "Clues". I am almost finished with it now though and am anxious to have it blocked. For this I also used stash yarn! I love knitting with beads and this design presented ample opportunities for using them!
I have been using a crochet hook when I knit with beads. It worked alright, but I was always a bit frustrated that I had to keep dipping into the tin of beads. I was designing a beading hook in my head when I happened upon this excellent little contraption called the Fleegel Beader from Miss Babs. It is available in three different sizes to accommodate a variety of bead and yarn sizes. It holds a lot more beads and is a much easier alternative I think! 

There is another model of beader called the Verna-X beader from one of my favorite beaded knit pattern vendors, Earthfaire (also available in different sizes). These beading needles are very similar. The Verna-X is a bit longer nd hence holds a few more beads. Foe me, the Fleegel seems just a bit easier to use, but it may be that my hands are small and so the shorter size feels more comfortable? If you like beading knits too do yourself a favor and have a look at these. They are both modestly priced. I think that they are made from guitar strings perhaps. I used pliers to add a tight scroll to the bottom below the rubber washer in case the washer slipped (which it seemed to do).

A few questions to ponder:
  • How do you feel about social networking? 
  • Do you ever feel the need for a break?
  • Do you tend to stop looking at blogs if they do not post regularly?
  • How often would you like to see a blog post?
  • do some months just fly by for you - leaving you in the dust wondering where time went?!

Lastly, if you have gotten all of this way and you happen to need a new set of Holbein Gouache paints - I happen to have one for sale. I accidentally placed a duplicate order. They came straight from Japan and this set is untouched - other than for taking the photo. I paid more than $50. but make me an offer if interested. I will be putting it on Etsy and Ebay shortly....