30 September 2013

Inspired Yarns

No painting, mixed media or quilting things today but I just had to share some truly unique, inspiring yarns. I continue to lust for my knitting needles in the evenings, although my need to sew has re-emerged strongly, and that makes me very happy! Mixed media still rules as well. I can never resist the paint pots for long! Right now I am itching to try the new Golden's new High Flow Acrylics line, but cash flow is , indeed, limited these days!

This is "Patina" yarn and it was showcased at AnaCrossStitch in Anacortes Washington. It was knit up in a lovely cowl pattern from Schoppel/Skacel. I considered this cowl and yarn during the ensuing weeks, and during an off island trip yesterday, I decided that I needed to wear this pattern! Or, maybe it will become a gift? I'm not sure yet. It should be fun to knit, and the yarn is a delight! The pattern name is "Cashmere Queen", although Patina is not the cashmere yarn that was originally used to knit the pattern with.

Next up, below, is lusciousness from famed Sundara Yarns. I'd heard about this brand yarn for some time, and have wanted to try it! With a generous 500 yards per skein I will be able to chose from many patterns. It has to be special though. Thank you Sundara!

Can you spell utterly divine?!

The next new find  is Souk yarn from Cascade Yarns. My color choice is #14 "Modern" (who me?!). Once again I found this treasure at AnaCrossStitch. They are great folks and would be happy to send this yarn and pattern right to your door for you! The pattern that I will use it for is called "Groovy" and it is available from Ravelry. AnaCrossStitch will be happy to sell it and include it in the bag with the yarn! I would not have considered knitting this pattern had I not seen it knit up and being worn by a woman who just happened to come into the store while I was there. There was another colorway that included all of my favorite greens, but this colorway really grabbed me, and so I am going to knit out of my comfort colors! Well, maybe not really out of them there is, after all, a lot of orange and green in here too! This is not a cost prohibitive pattern - so enjoy - as I will!

Groovy Pattern is available at Ravelry

27 September 2013

Three Thing I Didn't Know I Needed

Horn of America Deluxe Sewing Chair in the color option that I chose
I recently got two items that had been on my 'want' list for some time, but I had never put them on my 'need' list. After using these two things, however, I wish I had gotten them sooner.

The first wonderful addition for me is a great sewing chair. In approximately 2000 some of my friends had given me a good office chair for my birthday, and it has served me long and well. It will remain 'in service' at my 'mixed media' table. My friend, Lauren, had organized the office to chip in for this birthday gift, and if I had to guess, I bet that she added the lion's share of the necessary money. I loved it because it was cushy and a vast improvement to what I had been using as a sewing chair.

I realized some time ago that my back needed more substantial support. I had been looking at sewing chairs and was astounded at how much they cost. Office chairs did , indeed, seem to be a better option financially. I was especially impressed with the looks of the Horn of American Deluxe Sewing Chair, but there again,  the cost made me weak in the knees. I bid on one that came up on Ebay and lost the bid. Losing, it turned out, was a lucky thing.

Thanks to C&T Publishing I knew that I  will have just a bit of extra money that will eventually come in, and so I continued my search for a sewing chair that I could love. My favorite chair remained the Horn product. I began to make to calls about pricing. I chanced to call SewVac Direct in Bryan Texas. I spoke to a very nice salesman named Steve. Sew Vac Direct prices were so good that I ordered the chair within 4 minutes of calling! No shipping! The cost of the chair from them was less than what I had bid for a similar chair on Ebay! No, I do not have any affiliation with Sew Vac Direct - I just happened to call them for a price.

I had looked a variety of chair brands. Some were considerable more expensive and some were less so. The Koala brand looked great, but the chair's dimensions were smaller and, structurally, it seemed equally well fashioned. I loved the Arrow sewing chairs with their wonderful color and upholstery color combinations. They were a bit more expensive, but oh so much more joyful looking! I was sorely tempted by the lime green paint on one that caught me eye. The Arrow chairs, while being far more fun to look at, did not appear to be that cushy or supportive, and since my focus was on comfort and support, I went ahead with my original choice of the Horn brand.

My chair arrived yesterday (less than a week!). It was a snap to put together. The only necessary tool was a small, included little wrench. I was sitting in it within 10 minutes. The lumbar support is really outstanding on this chair! The cushioning and quality is excellent and I know that I made the right choice for me. It's such a pleasure to be able to sit at precisely the right height for my body and my sewing table, and I do believe that, with a proper sewing chair, you can easily increase you sewing time in great comfort.

Here are the particulars of this chair from the Sew Vac Direct website:

Horn 14090 sewing chairs are designed specifically for use while sewing and quilting. A Horn 14090 chair will provide the comfort you desire with the support necessary for proper support providing hours of sewing and quilting enjoyment. Eliminate fatigue from improper seating that you get from using a regular desk or office chair.
  • Hydraulic lift
  • Adjustable Height
  • 5 Casters For Safety
  • High Density Foam Padding For Comfort And Long Life
  • Quick And Easy To Assemble
  • Tilt Swivel with Tension Control And Lockout Feature
  • Pneumatic Height Adjustment with Gas-Lift
  • Contoured Seat and Back with Lumbar Support
  • Thickly Padded Seat
  • Fire Retardant Foam Padding
  • Heavy Duty Upholstery
  • Twin Wheel Heavy Duty Casters
  • Meets Or Exceeds ANSI/BIFMA Standard
  • Weight: 35 lbs.
  • 10-Year Warranty On Parts except pnuematic lift.
  • Phuematic lift carries a 3 year warranty
  • Please note there is a 250lb weight limit on all Horn sewing chairs
  • Seat cushion is 21" wide X 19.5" deep
  • Back cushion is 21" wide and 19" tall
  • Height to top of seat cushion is adjustable from 20" to 24"

The second that that I did not know that I needed is the Neez EZ. I had seen a friend of mine, Janet, use the Neez EZ. This simple device registered somewhere in my brain that it might be a good thing, but I could not really figure out why I would want to use it. I decided to go with my gut and purchased one of them from Nancy's Notions. It wasn't cheap, but it also was not too great of an expenditure and I felt that if I did not like it I could find someone who would love it. In the interim between ordering it and having it arrive on my door step I was at a quilting retreat with Janet and, when I noticed that she had not brought hers with her, she said that she had decided that she did not like it because it did not work well for her. At that point I really felt like I had thrown my money away!
When I got home, the package that included the Neez EZ was waiting for me. Now, I really didn't know what to expect, and I was sure that this was going to be a disappointment. Not so! I have found that using this simple device really works well for me. It seems to make the pressure that I exert on my machine pedal easier, and more even and it definitely takes some pressure off your knees. It makes using the machine pedal much more comfortable. 

Included in the box is a second, larger piece of gripper mat (like the material that you use to line your shelves with) to use on the floor underneath the Neez EZ. I find that I don't need to use that on carpeted floors, but it works perfectly on laminate or wood floors. In my case I do use it for traction on the vinyl chair mat that I purchased to use under my new sewing chair (that's another thing that was well worth the modest cost and that I should have gotten much, much sooner).

So the Neez EZ is one of those things for which YMMV (your mileage may vary) when using. For me it is a boon and I am very pleased that I followed my gut and bought it.

Lighting. This is the third thing is something that I always knew I needed but really could not afford to 'fix'. I needed much brighter, clearer light in my sewing area. The lamps that I had considered were at least $120 if not closer to $180. for the strength and wattage that I felt I needed, plus I needed two of them! I've been using simple, inexpensive, round reflector clamp lamps. Although they are an inexpensive lighting solution,  I needed better bulbs with higher wattage, much clearer light and lower heat output. I decide to try these speciality Alzo full spectrum light bulbs. These are compact full spectrum 27 watt bulbs with 5500k clear, daylight effects. These are large bulbs at 6.5 inches long by 2.25 around. They work like a charm in my inexpensive fixtures and make all of the difference in the world as far as lighting in my little space goes. WoW! is all I can say about the light that they produce. They are touted as having a 10,000 life. I always think those claims are a bit high, but heck, these make such a difference for me that I would buy more anyway. I gather that these bulbs are used for treating S.A.D., plant growth and photographic uses. For me, as I work with colors in fabric, they are perfect! I managed to save money by buying these too - now I can do without the new, more expensive lamps!

GE 'Reveal' bulbs had been a favorite - or the newer, 'daylight' variety, but compared to these bulbs, the BE (or other) brands really appear yellow!

In the past, when I was working, I could have much more easily afforded these items. Although I had considered buying each of these things along the way, I always thought it was not the right time, and I had not deemed them worthy enough of the expense. Now, at a time when I am less able to afford this type of 'luxury' items, I can really appreciate how they are things that I really needed to have all along for comfort and pleasure, but just didn't know it at the time.

Look around your sewing/painting/mixed media/work area. Can you think of any things that you have considered buying in the past, but decided against because they were too costly or too 'iffy' ? Ask yourself about whether these things would make your 'arting' time more pleasurable or comfortable and then, if you are able to, go ahead and try them out. The worst thing that could happen is that you won't like it and then you can return it - little wasted and, possibly you will have found something that you too never knew you needed! 

19 September 2013

Annual Quilting Retreat To Cle Elum Washington

Heading up towards Snoqualmie pass
I look forward to two annual retreats with my quilty friends. One in the Spring on Vashon Island, Washington and this one in the Fall to Cle Elum, Washington. One of favorite parts of the trip is going through the mountain pass at Snoqualmie. The elevation is a mere 3,022 feet, but that's enough for this lowland gal.This pass pretty much separates Western Washington from Eastern Washington and the views, even from the car, are quite spectacular. I was surprised to be able to get any 'near clear' images from the moving car! I always appreciate my friend, Janet, agreeing to take me with her and do the driving. She is the one who started this yearly ritual about five years ago. The shop and retreat cottage used to be in Roslyn, Washington (home to the old, wonderful TV show "Northern Exposure").

The "Crazy For Quilts" shop owner, Nancy Bronk, moved the retreat to a luxurious home in Cle Elum two years ago. More than the comforts of your own home await you when you step into this 4500 square foot retreat house because Nancy has seen to creature comforts at every turn. There is a full kitchen, should you have the urge to cook. Local, excellent, restaurants are very close. Maude, bless her heart, baked us fresh scones for the mornings!  If you bought some cloth that you are afraid might bleed, voila! there is a washer and a dryer available! Need a soak? The baths are stocked with a variety of luxurious bubble baths to tempt you to relax (if you need persuasion that is!) There is, as we discovered, a well stocked and low priced, quality thrift store right by the house too. Everyone seems to have made a small pilgrimage to see what treasures they could find.

The quilt shop is housed in a large studio behind the house by a lovely garden and deck (good for lounging and reading!). The shop is amazingly well supplied with fabric (current, reproductions, batiks and much more), patterns, books, notions, thread and rulers, is there for the sole enjoyment of the retreat participants! Talk about personal attention! Check out the link that I added to see more images of the rooms and amenities. I can't think of a nicer retreat experience.
It was a glorious day at the pass.
We left behind low clouds and fog on the Western side of the mountain
and broke out, on the other side, to this lovely sunshine
On the first night we all went to a local Mexican restaurant, El Caporal. It was truly an authentic style restaurant with excellent food and the best ever raspberry margaritas! Yes, I did enjoy this tasty treat, almost as much as the chicken fajitas!
These hanging petunia baskets that were festooned around the restaurant were the largest I had ever seen. They were an amazing sight!
The view from inside the living room. The windows are tinted. On the day we arrived it was 93 degrees. Yes, it was hot, but it was, at least, a dry heat that did not bother me anywhere
 near as much as the more humid heat that we have on the water
This is a part of the kitchen and a small edge of the living room - which has satellite television

The photo above shows my work area. Each person has a full table and the design walls are beautiful. I think that they are about the best design walls I have ever used. There are smaller sized walls by the tables and large, full wall sized ones around the room. The lighting is perfect, and small Ott lamps are provided as are irons and ironing boards!

Over the years I had subscribed to Hancocks of Paducah's monthly batik 'club' (I don't know if they still offer it). As a result of this collection, I had a lot of 5" batik squares. When I purged my excess fabrics recently I had to keep all of these batik squares. I knew that I wanted to make something from them, and this simple, colorful, pattern is what I came up with. It utilizes two squares, but there is enough left from the second square to use in another block if you want.
Our two "class" photos". 
 Quilts in the back from left to right: mine, Janet's holiday wall hanging
 and a small part of Debbie's amazing "jelly roll" roll quilt which we all lsuted over!

Janet and her lovely holiday wall hanging. She says that it will hang over her desk!

Above: Debbie's "jelly roll quilt. 
I have to admit to not thinking much of these in general, but this fabric line really made this a special quilt that I lusted to make. The fabric is from Daiwabo manufactured by E.E. Schenck and is called "Cara Serenity". I found that they are not easy to find. Thankfully, on the way home, Janet and I stopped at Fabrics Plus in Anacortes, Washington and they had both the kit that Debbie had used as well as many bolts of this amazing ombre fabric. If you're interested call them at 360-293-7641. They don't have a website, but they do ship!  Their version of this 'jelly roll' quilt is called strips and squares. I think that the black squares really add a lot of dimension to the quilt. I had searched the web for ombres and this line, for this quilt, was my favorite. The fabric has lines that run throughout in a pale grey and I think this very slight patterning makes a big difference in the way the finished top looks.

One version of this sort of pattern is called the 1600 jelly roll quilt . Pretty much the same technique but it does not included the use of the black squares.
Above: Debbie's second quilt: 
Her "watermelon" quilt. Debbie was the 'queen of quilts' for this retreat - they are both stunning!

Above: This is what Linda was working on. By the time I left it was much more advanced. I love all of the wonderful earth tones and greens that she chose!
Above: This is what Maude was working on. Unfortunately, I did not take an updated image before I left. It was turning out so beautifully - all warm luscious earthy colors too.

Above: My "Sample Pack" quilt
I was, and will be for awhile, working on this, but  I think that it will turn into a really fun quilt. I figured out a fairly quick strip piecing technique that actually makes the sewing relatively fast.

The question is what finished size should I make the quilt ? These are 4" squares so the finished square will be a mere 3.5 inches! I think I will just keep making the squares until I simply cannot make any more and see how it turns out. 

Should I just lay the squares on the design wall and call it good or should I play around with placement? It might look great graduated or placed by color group, but I really like the crazy, colorful, unplanned effect too. 

There will be some solid batik squares mixed in I think... many possibilities. I was SO excited to be really sewing again. My fire is re-lit!

I continue to learn a lot from my gal pals. I am rich in friendships that continue to enhance my life. Blessings indeed!