31 March 2014

How Friendship Can Make You Tearful

Today was a mail day that made me a wee bit weepy. I am, on occasion, astounded and humbled by the generosity and thoughtfulness of some of my cyber friends. I have several special cyber friends. I have said it before and I will say it again, my friends are the ones who teach me about generosity of spirit and thoughtfulness. As a non-spoiled, but only child, I sometimes think that I passed too lightly through God's 'share' line. It's not that I don't want to, or that I never think to share, it's just that I need to remember how meaningful it is at times.

This amazing magical box arrived today from Jeannie. Jeannie has been a cyber pal for a long time now. We live in the state, and we also live on the same side of this "mountain divided" state.  Jeannie had read that I was becoming more interested in 'primitive' wool applique, but that wool was scarce. Voila! Jeannie sent this box full of surprises in so many wonderful colors. She even included a book by Janet Bolton that I seen and admired at a friend's house just last week. How does one say thank you for this sort of generosity and thoughtfulness? I am flummoxed.
Jeannie knows that I have 'a thing' for crows, and her magic box contained lots of 'crow worthy' darks as well brilliant colored, special, wool fabrics .
Below: What made me tear up are these two pieces. The black wool is from Jeannie's Grand Mom's coat c1950 and the bits of yellow are from her Mother's c1944 eighth grade coat. I feel as though she has shared a bit of her family with me. 

These fabrics are now special to me too. I never was able to get anything of my Mother's, or from my beloved Grandmother's, and so family fabrics are especially dear to me - causing bouts of tears today! Again, how does one thank a person for sharing family history so poignantly?
 This is the Janet Bolton book that intrigues me so much - and now I get to read it at my leisure!
 Jeannie even included some threads for me try out. They wer tucked into her butterfly card
The second treasure that arrived today is from a younger friend from Australia. Her name is Soki, and as you can see, she is the Queen of beautiful writing. I have never quite known anyone to write as beautifully as Soki does. Her letters are gifts in themselves as she displays her talents in a rainbow of inks that somehow don't look as lush and beautiful as when I write with them!  Ski is a fan of vintage flex pens. I love them too, but my available funds no longer allow for pen purchases. I met Soki through my favorite pen fetishist hang out (the Fountain Pen Network). I have used fountain pens almost exclusively since I was 16. I wish I had spent even a 100th of that time as well spent as Soki has. Enclosed with her gift of a letter was this lovely journal with Bamboo on the cover. Doesn't it match her green ink perfectly?!
I am blessed by my friends,from near and far alike. You all teach me the meaning of friendship and the meaning of selfless giving. I am indebted to you all. Thank you for the treasures that come my way so unexpectedly and with so much joy!

Blessings to you Jeannie, and Soki as well, for your kindness and thoughtfulness.

24 March 2014

Boston Commons Done , Wool Applique, Aurifil Lana Thread and Polish de Jour, Humming Haven

This has been a good week! On Saturday night at about 9pm local time I finally finished my Boston Commons Quit Top. This image is truly poor, but my camera was not liking the dark room. It's 90" X 83". The backing will be turquoise fleece. I offered DH  a choice of a lovely cotton print, wide back, or fleece. He says he will always prefer fleece to any other option. Okay then!  I had been SO eager to get this project done. Because there was s little space to lay it out or hang it I had needed to set up another machine in the living room, making my mixed media supplies 'buried' for the duration. I wanted my table back! 
Mr. Crow is all felt applique pieces done on a flannel background
Wool applique is something that has interested me for along while, but it was 'just one of those things, that I had not gotten to. Hooay for a small sub-group of our Wednesday night quilting group. It's a small, beginning group of wool felt enthusiasts. I am a baby beginner, but we have some a very skilled , very gracious, woman who in the person tah was interested in getting this little group going. I could not wait to start, and so I did these two little patterns from the very talented Lisa Bongean. She is one of the owners of Primitive Gatherings - and oh what lovely things they offer!

Now I am in lust to find wool - it;s so expensive and there is no where local. My friend, Janet, graciously shared a bit of luxurious stash with me so that I could get started! Anyone of scraps that they want to donate?! Just kidding, but I would be interested in buying some if you have any!

Thanks to Janet I was also able to start Mr. Sheep. As the needle indicates this one has just been started.
I have thoroughly fallen in love with Aurifil's Lana 12/2 wool thread for this sort of applique. It feels like butter going through the needle and just looks so darn nice! It luscious! 
There will be more of it in my sewing basket in the future! 
It's SO much nicer than using cotton embroidery thread of Perle cotton!

Nail polish de Jour? OPI "Teal The Cows Come Home". It's not a teal color to my eyes, my at least it's a lovely shimmery blue. I am having a lot of fun with the cool new colors in nail polish land, and I have not nibbled a cuticle since I started using it ! One bad habit conquered - at least for now!
Our hummingbirds are back. They are back early, and there are far more of them than usual for this early in the year. One friend suggested it could be due to the draught in California. I added a third feeder, and they are draining all three in a day. Gradually, as more arrive, I will add another 2-3 quart sized feeders. By dusk there are about 20 hummers at each feeder. I have gone through nearly 20 pounds of sugar ALREADY! They tell me quite well when they need more food and when it is tie to add another feeder. Yes, I am a bit obsessed by these amazing, fierce little wonders of nature!
 The photos below were all taken through a window - so the quality is not too great. It's 7:45 pm here now and it sound like most of them have sought their nesty little beds. All of sudden the sound of their wings stop at  night, and I know that bedtime has arrived!

17 March 2014

Addi Turbo Rockets: My Search For The Perfect Knitting Needle Is Over!

In all actuality these 'new to me' knitting needles will soon be a part of an updated version of my knitting needle comparison V2, which is in the works. I was so excited though that I had to post a short note about these new Addi Turbo Rockets from Skacel knitting needles first!

For me, finding the best knitting needle (the one that feels the most comfortable in my hands), makes a difference in the pleasure that I take in my knitting. I taught myself to knit on Addi Turbo's.  I have many pairs of these fixed circulars as well as their interchangeable sets in both regular and lace. Addi Turbos are, to me, the venerable, grand-daddy of all good circular knitting needles. There were times when I really disliked the cables on the Addi Turbos though since the kinks were so irritating at times, but I always loved the 'clickity clack' sound that they made. I found it soothing, and I did  lot of knitting on my Addi Turbos!

As my love for knitting has grown so has my search for the perfect circular knitting needles. I have tried a lot of brands. Some I liked quite well, others, especially for the price point, I found a bit lacking. I always missed the sound of Addis Turbos, and I often wished that they made sharper points. Sharp points have become a necessity for me. I am no longer fond of the more rounded Addit Turbo profile.

I had heard about Addi Sock Rockets, but I did not buy any because I don't make too many pairs of socks these days (I have a shawl fetish in case you haven't noticed!) . I decided that I would not use the small sizes enough to make the purchase a wise investment.

Enter Addi Turbo Rockets.

 At first I wasn't really sure about whether they were still Sock Rockets - or if they were something else (dare I hope pointy needles in larger sizes?!). I contacted the amazing folks at Skacel and they very graciously offered to send me some of the Turbo Rockets for review. Thank you so much Skacel !!!

I am in heaven! The points that I wanted, combined with a more flexible, smoother cable and sharp points! Voila! Knitting wonderland for me! DH has since gifted me with additional sizes, and I am thrilled! These needles are just so dang good! Had I not liked them I would have included them in the upcoming "Circular Knitting Needle Comparison V2", but I would not have jumped my "giddy gun" and written about them now.  I do provide honest reviews, and seldom bother reviewing things that I am not thrilled with anyway.

My knitting needle dreams have true it seems. Now I need to find my dream metal double points! My Knitting Needle Comparison V2 is in the works, but it will take a bit of time to get it all together. Stand by for it.

 In the meantime, if you too miss the 'clickity-clack' of Addi's, but have also for Addis with sharp points - grab yourself a pair (or two or three!) of these knitting needle goodness ! I will be writing more about them in the near future.

I have found these needles to be widely available. Yarn.com seems to have a very complete line and 'in stock' supply of most sizes (as well as of the Sock Rockets). ParadiseFibers.com has them as well, but I just checked, and some sizes are back ordered. Hopefully, your very own LYS will either have them or be able to get them for you.

Look at the lovely, consistent, sharp points! Wonderful! There is a US Size 3 underneath and a US Size 8 on top

16 March 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day - Manicure Style!

 Saint Patrick's Day Manicure Style!
Color:  Zoya 'Midori'

If anyone were to have asked me for a list of the things that I would be the least be likely to have any interest in, until recently, I would have added "nail polish ", or "nail care" close to the top of the list ! I am, after all, as my father would have called me, "a woman of a certain age".

Many years ago, when I had a career in the 'real world' I used acrylic nails, and they were cared for bi-weekly. It was all affordable in Dallas where I lived at the time. I really ended up disliking the acrylic nails after a while and had them removed, which was, for me, a good decision.

When I moved to 'my' little island many years ago things changed. Most people here don't wear nail polish for one thing, and I wanted to try to  'fit in'.  Also, I like to keep my nails short because I do so much work with them, and because I cannot bear the way too long nails feel.  I always had a pre-conceived notion that nail polish would not look good on short nails and on hands that were small and relatively short fingered!

My problem, however, is that I suffer from a very nasty little habit. I 'worry' my cuticles terribly. I was always so embarrassed about torn hang nails and bloodied cuticles that required band-aids. The only 'cure' that I had ever found for this pesky affliction was having nail polish and a nice manicure. When my nails look nice I never go anywhere near those darn cuticles!  When I  take care of my nails and cuticles, they don't require any gnawing or tearing or scraping or cutting.

Recenlty I decided, what the heck?! I was going to go back to nail polish and have fun doing it ! Since I last used nail polish the changes are truly quite remarkable. Gone are the harsh, potentially carcinogenic, formulas. Most every brand (that I would buy) no longer use Toulene, Dibutyl Phthalate or Formaldehyde. To me the formulas work even better now - so if anything I feel better about using these fabulous little treasure pots of color!

There are fabulous new, fun colors, and my personal new favorite multi chrome colors (more on them to come in the future). I have found so many great greens! Lots of my favorite 'ick greens'. No longer are we relegated to corals, reds, and pinks. The entire spectrum of the rainbow, in all of it's tints and shades, is now available. New textures abound as well (sand - not for me I don't think), heavy glitter 
(not for me), matte (I'm seeing some looks that I like, but I am not sure that I want to try it). It's a whole new lacquered up world out there.

No, I will not be turning this into some sort of beauty or nail polish blog, but I have to admit that I have not gnawed on a cuticle or hang nail (or are they the same thing?!) since I have started to take care of my nails again - and use polish! Another, unexpected, benefit is that my nails no longer crack, peel or chip the way that they did when they were 'naked' - even though I always did buff my naked nails to shine.

My father's use of that nasty phrase "women of a certain age" always irritated me - it felt as though he was saying that women lost all of their appeal once they turned 'a certain age' - certainly where I am now is what he meant! 

There is no reason that we cannot have fun with our looks for as long as we choose to. I am going to have "nail fun" now. Polka dots and bright, fun, new colors, even on these aging, short nailed, hands. Looking at the colors makes me happy- and maybe in an odd way will contribute to keeping me younger! 

12 March 2014

The Retirement Quilt

Some friends have asked what ever became of my "retirement gift" quilt.
I almost ended up having no images of this quilt since I finished it at 10:00 PM on thenight before it was to be gifted. These images, while not perfect, nor complete, were taken in a friend's office just before I took the quilt down to the "retirement boy". It looks smaller in the images becuase of the darker outer border, but it is a queen sized quilt.

My good friend Keri Stone from Island Quilting on Orcas Island did a wonderful job of quilting it - as she always does!

Below: A great circular pattern that Keri used to define the 25 patch blocks - see more below for how this looks on the reverse side.   

I love the feathers!

These are some of my favorite details. 
Keri used a somewhat circular pattern (one of my new favorites) in the 25 patch areas.
 I love how they made the blocks 'pouf' just a bit on the right side!
The featherwork just makes such a beautiful dfference. The recipient LOVED the fleece backing. It's a rich chestnut color- most like the image above.
Our wonderful friend (he was our best man) who is beginning a new chapter. 
 I know that it will be amazing!

09 March 2014

Catnap Fabric by Lizzie House and New "Perfect" Scissors

Gosh! I have had a really busy week. In one day I went for a great lunch with friends, from there to a retirement party, and then from there to our weekly quilting/sewing/knitting group. I NEVER do that much in one day! Yesterday, Saturday, we had a "sewcial" that was a lot of fun. It was a really good week, but I am tired and behind in everything non-social! As a true hermit I need to make myself be social, but I am grateful to have a group of long time friends and I have been blessed to feel as if I am "coming home" from a long absence from the local quilting community.

Anyway ...

When I saw this new fabric line from Andover I knew that a few of these fabrics had to come and live at my house! I am sure that any of you who are cat lovers can see the immediate attraction! This collection, called "CatNap" is designed by Lizzie House.

I just happened to run across a vendor on Etsy, Fresh Modern Fabrics, that had 1/2 yard cuts of all of the fabrics I wanted from the collection. Perect!  I may need more! Fresh Modern Fabrics is run by Alice Essinger and, although I do not personally know her, I was so pleased to receive my delightfully wrapped wee bundle that included the small sample squares to the right in the photo above. It was just a little extra that made me smile. I may have to order some of that red "knitting bunny" fabric! Packaging and 'little extras' always deserve a 'shout out' in my book!

Among many other places these great fabrics are also available from another of my favorite fabric shops, Island Quilter, who are also the largest purveyors of all things Kaffe Fassett  just in case you have a yen for some Kaffe color in the meantime! Another of my favorite online vendors, Hawthorne Fabrics, also carries the line.

Here are the little sample squares
that were included in my package
along with her business card -
I like the design of that too!

Some of you may recall that I also have a passion for good scissors. My favorites have been Dovo's for a long time. They are still the ones that remain closest to my heart, but I do like micro-serrated edges more and more.

My friend, Sarah Ann Smith, and I went to one of those mini classes in Houston some many ago, and we met Karen Kay Buckley for those 15-30 minutes or whatever it was that the mini lesson allowed for time wise. At that time Ms. Buckley had one scissor available, and I think it was the lime green handled 4" variety. I decided to splurge recently (I found that I needed a new pair of larger sized scissors) and had our local craft store order three pairs of Karen Kay Buckley's "Perfect Scissors" for me. 

I might have found them for less on line, but sometimes I like to buy locally to help to keep businesses prosper on our small island and in our seasonal economy.  Bonnie, the shop owner, was a bit surprised at the cost when they arrived. The large purple handled 7.5" scissors were 27.99 (the same price as I find them in many places on line). The lime green handled scissors are 4 inch "Perfect Scissors" and the little red handled ones are "Perfect Curved Scissors" and I think that they are 3.5" or so (they are great for tight spaces in applique). They all work very well, hold the fabric steady as you go and cut like a dream. I think that the micro-serration is one of the reasons that are a bit more expensive than other brands.

I have a little yellow handled set of 4" Omni Grid Scissors that I like a lot , and they are only about $15.+ on Amazon , but Karen Kay Buckley's "Perfect Scissors in 4" inch scissors like the pair that I ordered are also only $15.+ on Amazon as well - so I think that they are comparable priced.

I like the wide, padded, finger slots on"Perfect Scissors"  and you can really cut closely with these fine tips. They are a far cry from my ancient dress maker's scissors from Gingher that I bought in the late 70's. Another favorite remains Fiskars Soft Touch 8". I have an older model, and they remain very sharp and very comfortable. I still use them when, for some reason, I cannot use a rotary cutter on fabric!  I like my new scissor additions! A good splurge. I won;t need another pair of larger sized blades for along time now!

01 March 2014

A New Bag and a New Pair of "The Cure For Cold Feet""

In the past I have not used patterns to make my bags. As I contemplate developing my own patterns, however, I decided that it would be good to make a few bags from printed patterns so that I could decide what I like and what I don't. I always tend to change things up a bit anyway, but seeing how different people write patterns is helpful.  This design is the "Heffalump Bag" from Janine Babich Designs. I really like the effect that the binding makes and it opens nice and wide.

The fabric that I fell in love with and won an a Guild "Aweful raffle". It's from Norway, and had been donated by the lovely, excellent teacher (my class from last weekend), Kitty Sorgen. I made my book pillow from another piece that she had donated that had sheep on it. I fell in love with both pieces of this home decor type fabric and had no clue what I would do with them, but I knew that I had to have them!

First I used "Inn-Control Plus" from Creative Craft Products to fuse the backing and front fabrics. I like this brand because it works (fuses) very well, but does not give a 'stuck' look which I find happens with some other brands that I have tried in the past. My favourite of their products is Duo Fuse which I used to make my "Feathered Bag". I love the loft that Duo Fuse provides, an alternative to this flatter look. I am a fan of Innovative Craft Products and I hope that they will be more widely available soon. You can order direct from their website- that makes it easy!
What I have discovered in making bags from patterns is that I am a much more visual learner than many people must be. I have to read, and re-read, written instructions, scratch my head, and then read again. Hand drawn pictures don't seem to help me that much either for some strange reason - I know that they should! Where I struggle with a written instruction if I had a photograph I would 'get' the instruction immediately. Most bag patterns are made to fit on a standard sheet of printer paper, or perhaps an 11" X 17" piece of paper. I  like to make slightly larger bags most of the time, and so I have generally enlarged patterns by eye.  I would love to have some patterns for larger sized bags printed on something like a half of an architect's sheet of paper. 

I would like photographs and larger patterns with less, sometimes confusing, verbiage. I would truly like to know what preferences you have as far as making things from patterns goes. What things would make a pattern easier for you to make?
I used care and went slowly when I stitched in the ditch to attach the binding to the zipper. When it is finished you can't see the stitches on the front, and that is just what I wanted! I hand basted the zipper in. I always do that because I think it makes such a big difference to the finished look. 
 This is how the zipper looks on the front and the back when it is place. Note the basted zipper.
 I added a very simple pocket - I just like bags with some sort of pockets and they are so easy to add!
I have been needing a new pair of what I call "the cure for cold feet". My last surviving pair has been patched and "re-knit" many times. I could add those leather soles I suppose, but I don't really like that feel on my feet. If you have cold feet this is the cure. The pattern is from Cat Bordhi's "Socks That Soar"

I used Malabrigo Merino Worsted, held double (the pattern calls for bulky weight), in a variegated colorway called "Intenso" (found on the bottom of the page that I linked to under 'variegated'). My feet are toasty, and I am in love with this colorway. I wish they made it in sock weight as well!  I bought enough to make a second pair. I need to make another pair anyway so that I always a spare on hand. I have never found anything as good as this pattern for keeping my feet toasty even in the coldest weather . I use them indoors as slippers, but, when it is really cold, I'll squeeze them into my Crocs and off I go. Not chic perhaps, but very warm!

 Find joy in your day and thanks for stopping by!