Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Warm ups


My oldest daughter teaches 3rd grade, and in the morning she hands out "warm-ups", half sheets of paper with a few math problems or vocabulary words.  Something quick to occupy the class while they settle in.  My crafting lately has consisted of warm -ups.  It's been a while since I've flung myself headlong into a pile of fabric to make a large quilt, and that's okay.  When I'm ready I'll know it.

Lately it's been all about smallish makes, portable knitting or crochet.  Easy projects to keep my crafty muscles flexed, requiring minimal mess or time on my part.  Like the long pincushion above.  I always wanted one to lay at the base of my sewing machine, so I whipped this one up with scraps of bark cloth, linen and Liberty fabric.  When the middle daughter came back from a visit to the State Fair this summer, she proudly presented me with a small bag of wool from the sheep shearing.  It still had dirt and sticks in it.  I swear my kids get me. Anyway I stuffed it into the pincushion, so now it has extra magical powers.   

There is an abundance of rosemary, thyme and sage in my garden right now, so I cut the plants back real hard and have them drying upstairs in the loft on pieces of paper towel.  I always save small glass spice jars and those have been cleaned and ready to fill with this years herbs.  Then I ordered lavender, wormwood (repels moths), dried orange peel and mint from Mountain Rose herbs to blend with my rosemary.  To this I added sweet orange essential oil, and I stuffed the concoction into sachets made with vintage cotton and some recycled linen from an old skirt of mine.  There's a tutorial on Purl Bee if you want to make some for yourself.  I cut into some Liberty fat quarters, and those will be sewn next.
Ginny made some here, and sold them in her shop.  They lasted all of about 5 seconds and sold out.  I wasn't quick enough to buy any, so figured I might as well make my own.  Done.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Smitten Blanket and other crafts

I started this in the middle of June thinking it would make a great summer project. Well I was right.  It went with me to my mom's chemo appointments, on the train to Portland last month, and any time there was a road trip.  In fact this thing has been practically living in the car.   Since it was one color,  and you crochet one square at a time, it was quite portable and there weren't many ends to weave in!
I used Knit Picks organic cotton worsted which was amazingly soft, not anything like the kitchen twine I've struggled with when making dishcloths.  The pattern was free over on byHaafner, and there's a handy little chart you can print off if you like that sort of thing.  I found it helpful, although it was easy enough to memorize once you made a few squares.  All the details are on my Ravelry page.

   There hasn't been much sewing going on around here.   I broke down and bought a quilting hoop and a nimble thimble and am trying my best to hand quilt, but it's slow. The leather nimble thimbles are a great idea, but I seem to be in between sizes.  The medium was too big and kept slipping off.  When it finally flew across the couch and hit the dog, I decided to order a small.  Now that one is too tight.  This is a bit like Goldilocks testing out the beds.

I bought some goodies in Portland at Knit Purl and have started knitting the Farmhouse shawl, and it's so fun!  Probably another reason why the quilting has taken a back seat.
Anyway that's my summer so far. Hope you're enjoying yours. Seems to be wrapping up doesn't it? Bring on the Fall.   Can't. Wait.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Plain Obsession

When I was in Portland last week, my sister and I walked into a posh little boutique on Alder St. to have a look around.  It was the kind of shop that would drain the pocketbook in minutes.  The wares however, were quite beautiful.  Table tops displayed fine gauge cotton tee shirts, soft wool sweaters, wide legged pants, linen napkins, carved wooden candlesticks and large coffee table books.   Most of the clothing they carried were in shades of navy, black, cream and tan.  If you wanted a few nice basic pieces to start a minimalist wardrobe, this was the place to get them.  I fell in love with this little creamer by a local artist and brought it home with me.
I  also spied a quilt on sale for just over $300. It was a color block quilt in cream, black and gray that fit in with the shop's aesthetic. I kept looking at it.  Thinking about it long after we left.  Obsessing about it's plain simple design.  In fact on the train ride home, an Amish (or maybe Mennonite) family joined us in the dining car and their starched white caps, and dark somber clothes reminded me of the quilt again. I couldn't wait to get home and make my own version.
It only took a few days to put together as I already had everything I needed.  And thank goodness.  A trip to the fabric store would have ruined my momentum.  The Lotta Jansdotter fabric I used for the backing has been in my stash for about 2 years. I never wanted to use it because I loved it so much.  Really that makes no sense.  I need to start incorporating these pieces into my projects instead of hoarding it.  It's not doing any good folded up in the cupboard.

Anyway, now I can get back to my WIPs and relax a bit.  Obsession over.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Going Coastal

On Thursday I'm getting on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train and heading up to Portland Oregon. I took the train once before, from Philadelphia to Washington DC, but I was by myself and think I napped most of the way.  I barely remember it. This time I'll be sharing a sleeper car with my youngest sister in a space the size of Harry Potter's cupboard under the stairs, and I imagine there will be lots of giggling and snorting into the wee hours.  Portland, bless that beautiful city, will only be about 75 degrees when I get there.  I will be leaving 100 degrees behind at home. I might have to dig my jeans out of the "winter" side of the closet.
I finished 5 squares on my popcorn stitch blanket so far.  I know the picture is only showing 4, but it was hard to photograph an odd number, so you get the idea. I'm hoping to make a few more on the train.
 I had some help from the dog going through my scrap bin to make several nine patch blocks.  I want to set them on point but I'm having a difficult time deciding on a background color.  Usually I reach for a cream color (safe), but I feel like all my quilts are starting to look the same. I might need to take a chance on this one and branch out of my comfort zone.
Lastly I'm making a linen project bag to take on the train, and I decided to work a cross stitch motif on the front, found in Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion book.  Since she lives in Portland, I thought it would be a fun reminder of my upcoming trip.  Have a great week wherever you are!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Self Sewn

Summer is in full swing now.  I can tell because my air conditioner is broken. A temporary fix is in place, but it looks like we need to buy a new one.  Meanwhile, outside there are plants with minds of their own popping up in areas where I did not originally intend them to be popping.  The morning glories are relentless, twinning around my swiss chard, green onions, or anything that stands in one place too long. I pull them out to get at my vegetables, but there are dozens of little seedlings, laughing up at me, waiting in line to take their place.
A row of sunflowers towers above my tomato plants, casting shade where I do not want it, but I don't have the heart to rip them out. I tried to grow sunflowers from seed last year, but they didn't take hold very well, so I guess they showed me who's boss by moving themselves to a different part of the garden that they like much better.
The compost pile is now bursting with spaghetti squash. I must have thrown the remnants of a cooked squash in there at some point.  The long vines have crashed through the wire farm fencing and were last seen marching eastward across the pasture.
And speaking of pasture, some kind of wild, pale blue flower has sprouted out there, along with yellow mustard,  all courtesy of the additional rain from last winter.

Now onto the fun stuff.  A few years back, I saw a yarny blanket that made me swoon, and set out to make one of my own.  I crocheted 6, twenty round granny squares and sewed them together, ending up with a blanket roughly 40x60 inches.  It's been sitting for ages waiting on those ends to be weaved in, and I'm so happy it's finally done! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Packing it in

We've been really busy lately helping the oldest daughter pack up her apartment and move.  While that was going on the boy/man came home briefly from university ( in between regular and summer classes) and we cleaned out his bedroom and packed away his childhood. But before that could happen, I had to tidy up the garage to make space for sports equipment, video games and high school yearbooks. I've dropped off so much at the Goodwill lately, they must see me coming and think my house is a never ending bottomless pit of All the Stuff.
I tell you what, my 50 something body can't take too much more of this moving and packing, especially since the weather is hovering around 100 degrees or higher for the next 5 days.
Ah summer, how I want to love you here in Northern California, but I want to experience you in Alaska, or Maine, where I imagine a light sweater is needed when the sun goes down,  people eat supper outside, and you can still wear long pants and shirts with sleeves in them.
There have been beautiful sunsets here though, and the grasses have dried to that rich California gold color.  I get to pick wild blackberries on my morning walks, make fresh lemonade from the lemons off my tree and float on a raft in the pool looking up at a sky so blue it makes you ache inside.
All that kind of makes up for the upper lip and boob sweat, the constant hum of the AC, and the inability to do anything outside between lunch time and 9:00pm without melting your face off.

 Enough complaining about the weather. Guess what? I finally joined the Instagram crowd (I resisted for a long time).  I still prefer blogging because I love the written word, the stories, the connection.  It's quicker to post something on Instagram, a nice picture, two sentences punctuated by a dozen emoji's and you're done. But man you can really get sucked into the looking and spend hours of time on there! I'm just figuring out how to navigate around and so far it's been fun.  I don't have too many posts up yet, but if you want to visit, I'm at  lifeofreilly58.
In between the packing I'm grateful this week for some quiet moments to practice my knitting, and  continue sewing more of my drunkards path blocks.  I've been able to build up a nice little pile so far.  However this is looking to be a 3 year quilt, as I started these blocks last year and it doesn't appear I'll be finishing any time this year.
Anyone got a summer project started?  Besides my white crocheted blanket, I've been itching to try some embroidery and I have 2 new books to read.  I'm down for anything really, as long as it doesn't  involve packing tape and a truck :) 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Changing directions

I changed my mind on two of my projects.  I was dragging my feet about finishing them, so I took a good hard look at why the feet were dragging.  Something wasn't right and I figured they needed to be tweaked just a little in order to regain my interest.  So out came the seam ripper for the quilt, and frogging commenced on the cotton blanket. 
I originally set the quilt blocks in my usual standby, Kona snow.  You can see them here. The white background was bugging me so I remade them with a tan and cream shirting fabric which softens the blocks somehow and gives them a little more interest.  The quilt is now almost done!
The cotton blanket from my last post was a simple sc, ch1, sc pattern, that was soothing to work, but a bit boring.  The plan was to make a solid cream colored organic cotton blanket, but I was constantly fighting with myself so I wouldn't add a colored stripe somewhere.  Maybe what I really craved was more texture.  When I spied this blanket, and this one,  I ripped out my boring one and started the new squares immediately.  BAM!   Instant crochet fun!  I love working on this pattern.
daughter doing the creepy eyeball picture
There are just enough popcorn stitches to keep this fun.  Also the Knit Picks Simply Cotton Worsted has exactly the amount of yarn per skein to make one 10 round block (H hook).
My daughter pointed out that both the crocheted block and the quilt block share similar shapes. Hmm.  Even weirder they both measure out at 13 1/2 inches.
I think I'm heading in the right direction.