Monday, 13 February 2017

Weekend progress

By the end of Saturday I had all my En Provence units sewn, though not all pressed and trimmed to exact size.  On Sunday I pressed all the four patch units and finished spinning the seams to make assembly of the quilt top easier.  I did a quick calculation and the quilt top as designed will have 2868 pieces of fabric in it! Wow! Next I need to trim all these to 3.5" square then I can start putting it together.

All the units for En Provence

For a bit of light relief I organised my small scraps into bags of the same colour, this will help with the rainbow scrap challenge during the coming months, and also made 3 turquoise Dresden plates to meet the February colour choice of teal/aqua/turquoise.  All the "petals" came out of the scrap bag, no yardage was harmed in making these so I can also link to Oh Scrap! :)

The weather turned almost warm on Saturday with temperatures of over 50F (over 10C) and as the daylight faded there was much less snow on the ground than we awoke to. My tender herbs got moved out of the garage to get some light and, possibly, some rain, but I expect to need to move them back inside during the week as more cold air, and possibly snow, comes our way.

At the moment I am holding off starting any new knitting projects, though I can hear the siren song of various balls of yarn, as I have at least 4 projects that need to be finished. Of the four things one of them only needs seams and a neckband, the others need a little more, but they are all at least 80% done so I must finish at least one of them before casting on again.  I also have a barely started scarf, but as that is for me there is no great rush to carry on with that at the moment, it will probably become my in-car project when we are driving to places in the better weather.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Cold weather, warm hands

With the snow and below freezing temperatures reappearing mid-week and giving me great light to work in I have managed a couple of knitting finishes this week - a baby blanket for a friend of a friend and some cosy fingerless mittens.

The blanket was a rescue mission as the friend who was making it fell up some steps and broke her hand a week before Christmas and still can't knit, meanwhile the baby it is for keep on growing (as they do), so I just carried on with it until the yarn was used up. Easy knitting for watching TV and taking to my craft group.

The mittens are from this Really Clear pattern and I took a class at Stitch Your Art Out to help me with the techniques for knitting on lots of double-pointed needles. It is actually only a set of 5 (or 4 if you prefer) but feels like 20 when you first start! Now I shall have warm hands as I sit at my PC in our basement.

First mitt completed
Second mitt in progress

My sewing machine has not been totally ignored. I made 3 Dresden plates in varied purples for the January's Rainbow Scrap Challenge and have made progress on my remaining sub-units for my En Provence quilt.

I hope to get those final sub-units finished over the weekend, then I can get onto assembling the blocks.  The purple petals came from leftover fabric from En Provence.

Monday, 6 February 2017

New year, new effort to keep up with the blog

Well, my blogging efforts in 2016 came to a dead end when my rhythm was broken by travel and other things. I also went through a fallow patch in my crafting.  Attempting to grow things in our tree covered shady garden took over my creative efforts over the summer months but my drive picked up towards the end of the year and I started making stuff again, which has inspired me to put my fingers back on the keyboard ("pen to paper" just doesn't work) and bring my blog back to life.

Here are some of the things I made and grew last year. We also took a trip to New Mexico in November and enjoyed the sunshine and wide open spaces.

So far this year I have been working on Bonnie Hunter's En Provence mystery quilt and my OMG (one monthly goal) for February is to turn this collection of pieces of fabric and sub-units into a quilt top/flimsy. I have at least done ALL the cutting (but not all the pressing and trimming....)

I also want to take part in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge and my plan is to make dresden plate blocks in the various colours.

Update: I had these done by Tuesday evening:

So that is the purple done for January, next aqua/teal/turquoise for February....

Playing in the garden

In February 2016 we purchased the house that we had been renting since August 2014.  This gave me more options in the 0.3 acre garden, though I am holding back on big stuff until we have had some of the trees felled. Currently our back garden/yard is almost unimproved woodland and the front isn't much better. The soil is poor as the goodness from the leaves has been lost each year because in the fall all the leaves had been raked to the kerb (curb), to be vacuumed up by the township and taken away for composting.  The best light is for growing anything other than mature broadleaf trees is in the 10 feet nearest the road, of which 3 feet is concrete footpath (UK: pavement, US: sidewalk).

2014: Lots of trees! The piles of greenery
are from removing an evergreen
that blocked all light into the sitting room.
2016: My refuge from the mosquitoes

Spring/summer of 2015, while we were still renting, saw us try out straw bale gardening, with mixed success. I ended up being back in the UK for the whole of May, June and July so my husband and sons took on the learning curve and that is when we discovered just how little growing light reached most of the front garden.  The straw bales were also used for growing in 2016, but will be composted this year once they are no longer frozen solid.

Heirloom tomatoes in straw bales
Chillies & tomatoes ready for drying

In autumn 2015 I planted some spring bulbs (daffodils and crocus) in the verge which gave a good show last spring and I am hoping they will repeat and improve this year.

Last summer I added three 3' x 6' raised beds in which I planted herbs, vegetables and fruits and we also had an outdoor hydroponics system for tomatoes and basil (Genovese and Thai).

Fruit & veg raised beds after transplanting
Herb bed after transplanting
Hydroponics system a couple of weeks after transplanting

One basil harvest! There were several
Huge basil leaves

As a novelty I grew a loofah, and although it set fruit they didn't ripen before the cold weather arrived. I shall try again this year.

Friday, 3 February 2017

What I finished in the rest of 2016

So what did I finish while I wasn't blogging in 2016? In no particular order.

In October the pink elephants quilt was completed and sent over to the UK.

Free motion quilted on my home sewing machine
Quilting detail - easier to see on the flannel backing
The whole quilt - in the end it measured 54" x 74"

In August I finished a sweater for my younger son that he took with him on his trip to the UK and Switzerland. I sewed up the last seams on our way to the airport in July and then made him model it in temperatures of over 30°C/90°F! Also some flannel PJ pants for my elder son.

Another knitting project completed was my fair-isle hat (for me!) started in April at the Stitch Your Art Out retreat, finished later in the year. The pattern is a Really Clear design and it was much more straightforward than it looks as it was all made "in the round", so all knitting with no purling after the initial ribbed edge. I have worn this a lot during the chilly weather as it fits so easily in my handbag.

October saw another quilt finished, the Frugal Block quilt I had been working on back in January was quilted bound and labelled for its recipient, who will get it soon.

More "help" from Smokey
All done! 64" x 84"
Quilting detail

The last October finish was a set of Halloween place mats and table runner for some friends that got married that weekend.  I found them as I unpacked and quilted them in glow in the dark thread, the table runner design uses three disappearing 9 patch blocks made from a Moda charm pack, with some of the rest of the charms used as the borders for the place mats.

December saw three cushion covers finished based on a Moda bakeshop project, one was a gift and the other two stayed home with us.

I think that was all the finishes for the year! In the end it was quite productive.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Scrap taming

Firstly a couple of pictures of my spring bulbs in flower, three weeks earlier than the same varieties last year!

As well as trying to reduce the UFO list I am also attempting to keep my fabric scraps under some semblance of control.  I know all quilters consider different sizes to be "scraps", for me it is probably anything less than 1/8th of a yard.  Above a yard it is yardage, between 1/8 yard (fat or long/thin) and a yard it is a piece, but so long as it is bigger than 3/4" in one dimension it is worth keeping.  Of course if I bought a stack of precuts of whatever size they would also be pieces not scraps.  I hope that is all as clear as mud.

A great help in dealing with my scraps is Bonnie Hunter's scrap user's system though I think of it more as a scrap tamer's system :)  I don't follow Bonnie's system with every piece of fabric, but as I come to the end of the cutting phase for a project I do, usually, cut the smaller pieces into strips, squares & strings and put them into boxes.  I used to use cardboard shoeboxes but have now discovered Sterilite 6 quart clear plastic boxes, which my local Home Depot has at 98 cents per box, including the lid!  Slowly I am putting my larger volumes of scraps into those and I can see what I have.  I also keep a box of all the odd shaped bits that I can't be bothered into sorting more formally, including all the triangles that I trim as I make binding strips and other little itty bitty pieces almost too small to use.  These small pieces end up in crumb blocks which in turn make the scrappiest, most colorful quilts full of all my quilting history.  Anything less than 3/4" square does eventually end up in the bin.

This week I have continued working on the elephant quilt for my granddaughter and now have 15 pink heffalumps partially sewn together. In making this I have also ended up with lots of little HSTs* made by sewing an extra line of stitching before trimming off the corner triangles - maybe in this instance these  could be called elephant droppings?  I think I shall press and trim them, sew them together in little blocks and make some pincushions using Amanda Jean's method over at Crazy Mom Quilts in the hope that using up the scraps as I create them will help keep them under control.  All I'll have to do is work out what to do with all the pincushions!

A quick note on another difference between the UK & the USA: driving! My younger son turned 16 at the beginning of the month and I now have TWO teenage sons with learner's permits. Eeeek!

Back in the UK I would have paid to send them out with a driving instructor in a dual control car for him/her to deal with their awkward kangaroo hops in a manual transmission (stick shift) as they learned clutch control and I would only have taken them out once they had already developed some skills, also they would have had to display "L plates" (as in the image to the left) on the front and back of the vehicle whenever they were driving to let other road users know the car was in the "control" of a learner driver.  Here it has been up to me to do the initial skills transfer, starting in DH's work place car park/parking lot and soon they will be on the real roads with no warning to other drivers that they are inexperienced drivers.  Admittedly, starting to drive in an automatic is more straightforward, but I know there are all sorts of skills and habits that a UK certified driving school instills in a young driver that I will not remember to pass on to my sons.  In due course they will be taught how to drive using a clutch, so one thing they already know is not to put their left foot anywhere other than flat on the floor or the foot rest!  From my quick internet search for L plates it seems that even our UK armed forces are not exempt from the L plate rule.

* HST = Half Square Triangle

Monday, 14 March 2016

Alphabet Soup - or a post full of TLAs

In 2016 I am aiming to move things from my UFO list to my completed list - in this instance a UFO is an UnFinished Object as at 1st January 2016.  To count as a UFO the project has to actually have been started in some way, i.e. at least some cutting and/or sewing must have been done.  This means a WIP* at the beginning of the year counts, but PIGS, PITs & PIWs don't, nor do USOs or WHIMs.  My UFO count at the start of the year was about 15 and I would like to get at least one completed each month.

This week I managed to complete a UFO from 2013, unfortunately this is not my oldest UFO, but it is now quilted, bound, labelled and has a hanging rod fitted so I can display it when I decide on where it will look best.  This was a class project from a workshop I took in October 2013 with Jenni Dobson.  The central panel was a joint exercise with another of the ladies taking the class.  I think I may yet replace the letters in the word "contrast" with black fabric, but I shall let that idea mature for a while.....  However it is finished and ready to hang so I have completed my OMG for March!

Of course having completed a UFO I didn't pull out the next one to work on, oh no, I started a new project instead!  This time an elephant quilt for my grand-daughter from Quilter's World magazine Spring 2016 issue.

I am using up pink fabrics for the elephants, many of which are from the scrap box and some yellow scraps for the ears.  The stash and scrap raid yielded sufficient fabrics for fifteen pink elephants and by the end of the weekend the five small ones had been assembled and placed on my design "wall" aka my ironing board.  All the pieces for five medium and five large ones are cut and ready to go.

A bonus this week has been some warm sunny weather meaning I was able to get out into the garden and carry on clearing last autumn's leaves from the flower beds and my plant pots where they have helped shelter my herbs from the coldest winter weather. The herbs were all pushed up against the wall of the house to aid their survival but now they have been moved out into the open to benefit from the rain we are promised next week.  My spring bulbs are also looking good, some of the crocuses are blooming and the daffodils are pushing up leaves and flower buds.  Now I have to be patient before planting my vegetable seeds for the year - last year I was a bit too impatient and the seedlings were getting too big before it was safe to put them outside, this year I shall hang on a bit longer before starting them inside.

This week I am linking up with:
Design Wall Monday and
Oh Scrap!

* WIP = work in progress
PIGS = project in grocery sack
PIT = project in tote
PIW = project in waiting
USO = UnStarted Object
WHIM = work hidden in (my) mind
TLA = Three Letter Acronym :)