Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Truth or Dare


I finished the crochet pillow that goes with the quilt shown in the previous post. It would be nice to have a whole blanket out of these muted colors, but it was not meant to be.  This was a stash buster project, and I would have to buy more yarn to make it blanket size, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of stash busting. 

It's Halloween.  We have lived here 11 years, and have never had a child come to our door for treats.
Maybe it's because they don't dare come down THE ROAD!......
This is the road to our house.  We live way down at the end through the white picket fence where you can see those tall redwood trees.  This small road connects to the main road, where I'm standing taking this picture.  I like the privacy out here in the country, but it's hell bringing down the garbage cans.
Our first Halloween in this house, I bought bags of candy to give out, just in case.   But no one came, and we ended up eating all the candy ourselves, yelling "Trick or Treat" to each other when we stuck our hand in the bowl, and I haven't bought any since.
If there are any kids out there who want to brave this road on Halloween night with nothing to guide you but the light of the moon, the shinning eyes of opossums through the pine trees, the heavy breathing of raccoons (yes, they do that!) and the howl of coyotes,  I will bake you a whole cake!
I dare you.

  Normal porch at the end of the scary road.
                                                                Happy Halloween!!!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Prairie quilt finish

The last few days have been spent watching the World Series while finishing this quilt.  I don't think I have enjoyed myself this much in quite some time.  I only wish the games were a little more exciting.  Besides one weird obstruction rule call, and last nights home run, there hasn't been too much worth noting.  Oh yeah, and I wish these guys would shave. What's up with the beards?  They all look like they came from the set of Duck Dynasty, not Major League athletes.  Still I hope they go the full 7 games.  I hate to see baseball season end.
This  quilt was made by pulling from my scrap bin, using "blendy" muted fabrics.  The resulting blocks fly in the face of the modern, high contrast look so popular in quilting these days.
I love all the new fabrics, but a scrappy pieced quilt, a la Little House on the Prairie, using up what you have, still pulls at my heartstrings.  I didn't use a pattern, just put the blocks together with lattice and posts.  It measures 50x60 inches.
The backing is a queen sized bed sheet full of peachy/pink roses, found at the thrift store. The binding was a fabric from JoAnns.  I also used Aurifil thread in the color Sand (50wt.) to quilt it.  Despite my fancy machine (not always better, although I do love the automatic needle down, and thread cutter), it constantly gives me grief.  I have taken it to the shop repeatedly, but still have to re-thread, or take out the bobbin and put it back in, several times during a project.
Anyway my machine LOVED the Aurifil thread, and I was able to quilt without a hitch. For the record, I usually use Gutermann or Mettler thread for everything.  Despite success with the thread change, I want to get a Singer featherweight 221 for Christmas.  When I asked about the Singer at my LQS, the lady there (who knows me) said "You mean you don't have one?" Like I was missing out on something BIG.  Being a complete sewing geek, now all of a sudden I need one.  My husband (Santa) has been given the particulars and he's off on a mission.
We finally have cooler weather, and I'm trying to make a pot of soup a week.  Last week was a chicken broth based soup with cheese tortellini, fresh spinach, basil, and a can of diced tomatoes thrown in.  Lots of garlic.  Yummm.  This week is sausage, potato and kale.  More garlic. A splash of cream at the end puts it right over the top.  Here is the recipe.
By the way, the crochet piece I made to match the quilt has been turned into a cushion.  Since I have 4 crochet blankets in the works already, I just didn't have another one in me.  I'm sewing it together now, so it should show up in the next post.
I'm off to rake up all the redwood tree droppings you see in the pictures above. Unless it rains.  Then I'm back to the sewing room. Wouldn't that be just horrible.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Binding practice

I finished three quilts yesterday.  Not from scratch mind you, that would have been impossible, and I would have to be on crack (which is also impossible).  They all just needed binding. To speed up the process I sewed all the binding on by machine, (front and back) rather than finishing by hand.  These old WIPs were the perfect guinea pigs on which to practice some machine binding.
One of the quilts is 3 years old and I don't much care for it anymore.  It was made when I was going through my Orange phase.  So let's get that one out of the way first.
This quilt is from Oh, Fransson!, and it's called Crazy 9 Patch Lattice.  You can find it here.  Please note her blog post was from 2010.  That's about when I made this.  If this quilt were any older, I would have to photograph it laying over a walker.
 The pattern was really fun, kind of a stack 'n whack quilt, if you remember those.
The binding had already been sewn to the front of the quilt. I just folded it over to the back, and sewed it down again by machine.  You end up with a line of stitching on the front of your quilt, right next to the binding, like above.  For the next two quilts, I sewed the binding to the back of the quilt first, then flipped it to the front to finish. That line of stitching then appears on the back.  Blah, blah blah, binding, blah, blah. Are you still with me?
Not sure which method I prefer, but I do know they both take some practice.  I managed to produce a plethora of wonky stitches, resulting in the judicious use of my seam ripper and swearing of epic proportions.  However, even going very slowly on the machine, it's still faster than sewing it down by hand.  Yes, I will make this work.
Here is a jelly roll race quilt made with Comma by Zen Chic.  The main objective is to sew all your 2.5 inch strips together until you have a quilt.  The VERY FIRST part of the instructions say to cut off about 18 inches of your first strip in order to off-set the colors and seams.  Apparently I was so excited to begin the race, I forgot this little tidbit.  As a result, there is a pool of orange and black in the center of the quilt.  Not a big deal, but now I think it has kind of a Halloween flair. 
Yes, that orange keeps coming back to haunt me.
 The last quilt was made from the book Zakka Style.  No orange in this one, but the pattern called for linen, and I didn't have any at the time, so I used some Osnaburg from my stash.   Looks like a cross between a linen and burlap.  It's very cheap affordable (usually around $4.00 per yard), but shrinks like crazy, so you must pre-wash.  It also frays like crazy, and it's hard to rip out any mistakes because of the loose weave. Don't get me started on the wavy binding.  Just crazy.  Have I convinced you to buy some yet?

I had the brilliant idea to use a decorative "s" stitch on my machine for the quilting.  But the stitch length was too small (couldn't be adjusted), and after two rows sewn right down the middle, I noticed the fabric was distorted at the bottom.  The stitches were so tiny, they couldn't be pulled out for fear of tearing, so I flung it to the back of the closet for a time-out, which lasted about a year.
So yesterday I dug it out, finished up some rows of straight quilting, and added the binding.
I'm not mad at it anymore.  I think it's kinda cute!

The other fabric in this quilt, which played nicely, was a charm pack of Hello Luscious.  To check out the machine binding tutorials I used go look at this or that.
I must say, I'm relieved to get these behind me. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In sickness and in health

My husband and I are both sick.   You know when one spouse gets sick, the other (who is not sick) usually gets their back, as in "Can I get you some soup or a Popsicle?  Maybe something from the store, my dearest cream puff?"
Not here.  We spent the last couple of days meeting up in the kitchen, squinting at each other through puffy eyes, comparing symptoms, whining about our body aches and sore throats, not able to have a complete conversation without lapsing into fits of coughing.  It feels like a competition.  So annoying.
Then the poor husband had to get on a plane this morning for L.A.  I hope his congested head didn't explode at 30,000 feet. Meanwhile I took my daughter to get her car repaired and we stopped at the Dancing Fox for breakfast.  We completely destroyed some eggs and a plate of waffles.  Feed a cold, starve a fever, right?

I want to bring their outdoor seating area home with me.

Back home in the sewing room, slow progress is being made on the prairie quilt blocks.
Hmmmmm.  They are all starting to look the same to me.  Will need to add some un-pieced squares to break it up me thinks.
Crocheting however has been going full speed ahead.  The large 20 round granny blocks are coming along nicely, chewing up my scraps of yarn.  I have 4 1/2 blocks done out of 9, so I'm halfway there.

 When I'm tired of grannying (is there such a thing of being tired of making grannies?), I switch it over to this blanket.

  Something that has wanted to be made for a long time.  I just love the simple pattern, the colors and the rhythm of the hook.  I'll post more about it next time.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall field trip

Every fall I try to visit Phillips Farms in Lodi, also home to the Michael David Winery.  Outside, I usually grab a wheelbarrow and load it up with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Then it's on to the cutting garden (see my header pic), where you can pick your own bouquets.  Inside, they serve lunch and have a wine tasting bar (this is why my daughter decided to join me.)  I made her pay by posing for a picture.
Besides pumpkins and flowers, we left with a bottle of wine, heirloom tomatoes, a hunk of raw milk cheese, and the best ever blackberry/peach pie, which we ate that night for desert, and finished off the next morning for breakfast.  I keep thinking about that damn pie. I want to go back and get another one.  I'm having pie withdrawals.  Pie dreams.  Please sir, may I have some more...pie?
The first three letters of my blog spell Pie.
Good grief.  No wonder my jeans are getting tight.
Afterwards we went into town and stopped at a lovely shop called the Antiquarium.  I bought a few handmade decorating goodies.

Check out this pumpkin.  There were so many to choose from, all made using home decorator fabrics and embellished in the most creative ways.
This one is made from a linen blend material and has a champagne cork for a stem. Kind of sophisticated for a squash wouldn't you say?

Despite all this galavanting about, I did manage to finish a small embroidery piece.  It's a free pattern from here, as seen on T.V.  Pinterest.

I trimmed the finished square to 8 1/2 inches, and added 2 1/2 inch triangles to the corners, creating a snowball block. Then I sewed on 3 1/2 inch borders.  Whoopie!  Christmas pillow in October.  Done.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How low can you go? A low-volume prairie chic experiment

Sorting through my stash the other day, I gathered all the neutral yarns together and thought they made a pretty pile.  It got me to thinking about creating something low-volume-ish in crochet.  Of course there are limitations with regards to yarn.  First I was playing around with what I had on hand in my cupboard.  I wasn't going to run out just yet and buy up more yarn (although the thought crossed my mind, and I was momentarily giddy with the idea.)  Second, yarn was just a flat color or variegated, no dots or plaids, stripes or paisleys to add interest.  Third and most important, I wanted to add subtle hints of color without creating something resembling a baby blanket of pastels.
This is the quilt I'm working on at the moment.  Not really following a pattern here, in fact after I made a few of these blocks, the finished size came out just under 9 1/2 inches.  I don't know how that happened, but at least they're all consistent and that's what matters in the end when you start sewing them all together.  The block is a lazy version mix between a churn dash and a prairie queen block.  I'm trying to keep the colors muted and blended, as opposed to the usual contrasting found in quilting.  This is taking me longer than normal because I'm spending a long time sorting and playing with fabric.  And I must say it's very enjoyable.
Any who, back to the yarn.

Not sure if I'm going to keep going and make a full crocheted blanket, but at this point I have at least one half of a cushion cover.

Hmmmmm.  Not quite as low as I wanted to go, but as Arthur told Babe at the end of the day...

"That'll do pig.  That'll do."