The recent sniffling and occasional headaches, which I thought were the harbinger of spring...allergies...apparently were an impending sinus something-or-other and it's currently in full bloom. Today has been one of those scuffing around days, mostly spent trying to talk myself into feeling better. The noontime shower didn't really do much and the last few hours have included a myriad of activities such as ripping out a half-completed knitting project due to a color problem, numerous trips to the thermostat (to warm the place up-cool the place down-warm the place up), and discovering that I have cut *many* quilt pieces a half inch smaller than intended. At least I didn't waste the day just sitting around, right?
I have spent some time this afternoon online, trancelike, and seem to have come upon the next big thing. Check out some examples here and here. I might actually try this if there was anything interesting going on around here today. Unraveling yarn? A rotary cutter sailing across the room? Nah. You've all seen that before, haven't you?
M has been away for several days on a golf trip with college friends and I've taken the opportunity to do some spring cleaning and sprucing up around here. Don't ask why a long weekend alone would be the impetus for a burst of good intentions when he usually is gone at least 12 hours a day. I just decided to take the impulse and run with it. As usual with me, results didn't quite equal expectations (though he's not due in until late tonight...still time) but I got a lot done. Closets and shelves are now clean & organized and this wonderful product has gotten rid of several little carpet spots that were bugging me more than I realized. What a difference! (It takes so little to make me happy.)
When Molly and I were in Tokyo in January, we were hurrying around a corner at the Asakusa gate, when we came upon a charming, little Totoro shop. I forged right in, disappointed to find the shopkeepers were starting to close up for the day. Already laden down with bags from a washi shop that Steff had recommended (Kurodaya, on the same block), we were satisfied to do a quick dart through, oohing and ahhing (big Totoro fans, we are) until Totoro banners hanging above stopped us in our tracks. It was here, as the owner was drawing the shades, that I had that fast-forward, internal conversation with myself over whether I really needed to bring home any more cute Japanese character items. So I talked Molly into getting one. And while she was purchasing it, I spied a more subtle one that *somehow* did get added in. It was sitting, forgotten, in a little pile of mementos until recently, when within a few days, I read several blog references to Totoro (the movie....if you haven't seen it, you must...it's a treasure) and took this as a clear sign. So today I took the time to handstitch narrow casings top and bottom for a thin dowel. Look Molly! Mine's up...how about yours?
There's been lots of knitting this weekend (though on a secret swap project) and some Project Spectrum sewing (March is ticking right along, isn't it?) but this post wouldn't be complete without mention of the *eating whatever/whenever* aspect of several days spent alone. This weekend's menu included lots of Trader Joe's potstickers with their new gyoza dipping sauce. Yum. My bottle's getting low but it's been so popular that TJ's has been having trouble keeping it in stock and I haven't been able to get my hands on another. The good news? It's a lot easier to open than the caponata!
Every once in a while, a pattern comes along that refuses to be ignored. Last Saturday, I was poking around my local yarn shop searching out some yarn to finish up my granny squares when I spied a little pattern display on the top of a shelf. No knitted examples, just pattern folders. Nonibags. Have you seen these? OMG! The bag patterns are classic shapes, but the embellishments...roses, spider mums, camellias...are almost Dr. Seuss-ical. I had to try one.
I chose this pattern, headed to the stash for some Lamb's Pride (Lotus Pink & Ruby Red) and cast on with abandon. In just a short time, I had completed the two sections...a corkscrew center and the petals.
Did I mention that the recommended yarn was Cascade 220? (Hint of foreshadowing.) I used Lamb's Pride because it's my favorite felting yarn...shrinks up so thick and firm...and I had quite an array in the stash. Zipping along, I assembled the blossom as directed, popped it in the washing machine and waited for the always magical results.
*Cue Jeopardy theme song*
The pattern? So inventive and a really fun knit. Relatively quick (under two hours). The result? Solid...solid...and decidedly not funky. (Maybe even a little scary!) The reasons I love Lamb's Pride for felted bags are exactly why it's not a good choice for these embellishments. Too firm, no floppiness. Sucks the life out of them. If you're thinking of trying one, use what's recommended (huh!) or try a single strand of LP. A new spring line of Nonibag patterns is slated to hit the stores in a couple of weeks with a book to follow soon. Check them out if you want a quick little creative diversion!
Starbucks is once-in-a-while indulgence for me, usually on a yarn shop-antique shop-bookstore kind of day. Since the holidays, I've been stopping at Starbucks here & there, hoping to find a stray little bottle of gingerbread syrup sitting on a clearance shelf but it looks like I missed the boat while I was away in Japan. When I inquired Saturday, an ever-so-eager employee (which is actually the description of seemingly every service employee in the Heartland...but that's another post) told me gingerbread was gone until fall but any of their current flavored syrups were available in the large, behind-the-counter size for just a bit more than their small home-sized bottles. News to me!
If you're clicking around this weekend, you might want to check out:
Early last week, there was an interesting flurry of blogtalk about the current crop of quilt books which offer directions for modern, quirky quilts. It was, I think, prompted by Leisl's post about how appealing these quilts are but that she doesn't care to follow directions to make a quirky quilt that will look exactly like everyone else's quirky quilt. (I'm paraphrasing here. Go read her post.) The discussion was continued over at Yarnstorm, after Jane made a similar comment in a post that she's not interested in making replica quilts, but uses quilt books and fabric lines as inspiration. (Again, I'm paraphrasing...here's her post.) As I mentioned in Liesl's comments (at just about the time Jennifer was leaving the same comment at Jane's post), there is a book out there that's probably the next step that so many newer quilters are looking for. It's Liberated Quiltmaking, by Gwen Marston.
The book basically is an introduction in designing original quilts without templates or set patterns. Gwen offers guidelines for designing as you go, using mistakes as opportunities and choosing colors. In addition to her own examples, she's showcased photos of student work, including her friend, Keiko Goke, the very popular Japanese quiltmaker. The book also has lots of technical information on avoiding sewing problems such as trying to join odd blocks & strips together, working with multisized triangles and best use of scraps.
Gwen, who's written many quilt books and has a new one coming out shortly, was a bit before her time on this topic, I think. It's now out of print. Originally published in 1996 (HC) and republished as a paperback a few years later, it's still pretty easy to find copies on eBay or at libraries & used book shops. It's not a glitzy book and the colors used in the quilts reflect the quilts of its time, but if you can look past that, this book is a gem. One of my top 5 favorite quilting books. And I own hundr....lots.
I do think it's somewhat funny that so many of us (and yes, I do include myself, definitely!) would like to *unlearn* some of our acquired skills and look to books & workshops to help us make quilts that have more of the spontaneous look of the untrained quiltmaker. When I spent that unforgettable day with the quilters of Gee's Bend, I remember a conversation with Mary Lee Bendolph when several of us lamented that our work was overplanned and lacked the joy that spilled from the GB quilts. She laughed and said something like "Jus' pick a pretty piece of fabric and find another one that looks good with it and sew 'em together. Keep doin' that until it's the size you want and you'll have a nice quilt!"
Last week, I spent a good bit of time playing around with border options for my Project Spectrum quilt. From the start, I had been considering making the border of blocks using only the dark value fabrics...reds/pinks...so that it would read as solid, but be more visually interesting than a strip of one particular red. I tried many versions of this.
Including the dotties and more medium values = not well enough defined.
Using only solid-ish darker prints (above) = well defined border, but too solid and wide. Overwhelms the interior design.
Reducing the width of the border = awkward division of block design.
I've pretty much discarded this idea but am close to deciding on an alternative. That's for the next update.
I want to bring some attention to a wonderful project I've been following. It's the fascinating, ongoing Old Coat Thursday. Primarily a rughooker, Brenda is embellishing a black wool coat, bottom up, and documenting her progress each Thursday on her Flickr album. Great idea and so much fun to watch develop! Brenda and her artist husband, Rick, have an interesting story, which Danny Gregory profiled in a post a while back. Well worth the time to visit their blogs!
** I've gotten several comments and email today telling me that my photo isn't showing up, but I can see it clearly while reading my blog both on AOL or through Bloglines. Anyone know what's going on?
***I've deleted and re-uploaded my photo, as directed by Typepad. Now can you see it? I feel this is all a little bit much since I hesitated to even write about my whole border deliberation to begin with. However, I would like to know if my photos are now visible to readers, since I've been able to see them on my blog all day.
Despite impressions to the contrary, there has been knitting going on here this week. Not the fiddly, hand-straining type that I'd prefer...my Trekking socks, a run at Latvian mittens. (Have you seen Julia's? Ooh,ooh,ooh!) Something easy and loose. A project that's allowing me to ease back into painfree throwing (wearing one of these) while paying close attention to the can't-look-away-for-a-minute exploits of Jack and Tony.
It's just a simple 1x1 rib scarf in that Kureyon I picked up in Japan. I knitted one skein's worth on 8s, but it's just a teensy bit too firm. Last night I started a second skein on 9s and although it's not obvious in the photo, the jump of just one size needles is resulting in the fabric weight I was looking for. So tonight I'll be frogging, but that's ok. I'm easily entertained by Kureyon, at least for a while more.
The other day, digging around in that black hole of UFOs (sewing room closet), I came across a bagful of these granny squares. Little jewels, I've dumped them on the floor and sorted through them many times since I crocheted them one college summer. It was during the waning days of hippie chic, when we were still sewing peasant blouses and caftans from Indian bedspreads but several years before quilting exploded on the scene. The last heyday of crochet.
I've decided to finally make this up into a throw but the squares each need one row of the connector color. Here's my dilemma. These are made of Wintuk, wonder fiber of the 70s. I know, I know...get the smelling salts. This is *ahem* vintage Wintuk, however. The squares have quite a nice hand, not at all like the acrylics of today, which I definitely don't want to won't use. I'm considering using something like a Cascade 220 Superwash. Any reason this would be a bad idea? (Other than finishing a Wintuk project...) All suggestions welcome.
I was going to change topics here but when I remembered that I now have a scanner, I decided to take a quick detour down memory lane.
Yes, it's moi, crocheting rope for a design project in college. Which, as I recall, resulted in my first fiber related injury, a wrecked wrist. Check out the dorm room...no microwaves or Rubbermaid containers in '73!!
Can it get any more dark and dreary outside? It's been a great week for holing up in a room and sewing away, but it hasn't been so great for photographing progress. When Molly emailed this morning to ask if I planned on posting again anytime soon, I knew it was time to haul a lamp upstairs and try to get some pictures.
Have I mentioned how much I'm loving the Project Spectrum challenge? It's been obvious through the years that I get much more interested in a project and, most importantly, completing it, if it has some parameters. Gift quilts. (Who's it for? What colors & themes would work best for the recipient? What event is the deadline?) Show quilts. (Contemporary show or traditional? Size restrictions? Entry deadline?) But when it comes to making something for the fun of it, I always get sidetracked by the possibilities. Design. Color. Size. Intent. I start out with guns blazing but often end up putting it aside and wandering off when I get to some critical decision. Lolly's challenge is providing me the perfect framework to get excited about working with fabric again!
Six block section
In response to some of the comment and email inquiries this last week, the block is basically a skewed ninepatch. My blocks are 8" square and use just three templates. The quilt's overall design emerges by juxtaposing one block with its mirror image. To achieve this, half of the blocks are made with pieces traced from the reverse side of the templates.
Yes, templates! I can hear you rotary cutter people groaning out there. I use my cutter regularly but I'm finally admitting it. I like making a quilt this way. Cutting out the pieces, moving them around on the flannel wall. Sewing up a few blocks and laying out a few more to consider. Watching patterns emerge and deciding it needs more of this or less of that. Popping in while I'm making dinner or right before I go to bed to see if something jumps off the wall at me that wasn't apparent while I was working on it. (Which happens so often!) I know this sounds a bit OCD. I prefer to use the term, *deliberate*. One of my goals in this piece was to see if I could successfully use the Kaffe Fassett large designs with a variety of types of prints (batiks, 30s reprints, Japanese prints, etc.) and I think it's working. I only ordered small pieces of all of that KF fabric last fall, afraid that maybe they'd be hard to work with outside of their group. But these prints definitely play well with others!!
Now it's decision time. Lap quilt or wall quilt? Square or rectangle? Machine quilt or hand quilt? Surprisingly, I'm not fretting about it. I plan to have it finished or well on its way before next month's challenge. (Yellows! Oranges!) Meanwhile, I've been champing at the bit to get back to knitting. My hand's feeling much better so there'll be something new on the sticks by the beginning of the week. Enjoy the warm weather this weekend! (Did I hear 70s in the heartland forecast?!!)