Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Belive in Miracles (21 x 25)

I wasn't able to finish this piece by Christmas day, but if we fall back on the notion of Christmas continuing for 12 days, then I finished right on time.

After I turned in grades I came down with a really bad cold, but Christmas came nonetheless, and once the wrapping paper was recycled, and the leftovers packed away, I was happy to sit down and put the finishing touches on this piece.

It seemed only fitting, crazy quilter to crazy quilter, to add some seam embellishments to the outer border of Allie's quilt.  And I took a page from one of her techniques to use these beautiful shiny ribbons--some have beads, and all have metallic threads, in lieu of a conventional binding. I hadn't set out to do this, but I had four perfect ribbons and I also wanted to avoid cutting the points off on these embellished blocks, so it was a happy solution. I didn't follow Allie's instructions exactly, but the basic idea is there.

I added some mother of pearl buttons to the floral part of the composition.

Another close up.  You can see that I extended the halos with more buttons and with beads.

A lot of handwork is like prayer or meditation.  It infuses objects with spirit and with intentions. It's a wonderful opportunity to make a quilt for someone like Allie who is tuned into these messages in the cloth. This has been a fulfilling project, and in many ways it's been an unexpected form of  dialogue between two quilters.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays in the ways you love the most and with friends and family.  I am sadly behind on my blog reading, but I'll be catching up over the next few days.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Embellishing Allie's Madonna

I've now come out from under the semester's work.  Finals are over, grades are submitted, and I'm officially on vacation.  Between the madness, I've been working on Allie's Madonna, which became a serene meditation to counterbalance the busyness of work.

In the final composition I added that pink and white inner border, which to me adds breathing space to this piece.  I then machine quilted the whole piece with metallic silver thread.

The floral part of the composition got some hand embroidered foliage: the dark green is rayon ribbon and the light green is silk thread. The ribbons are top stitched with machine embroidery using rayon thread.

I took a close up of this part of the outer border because it's a little joke I've inserted into the piece.  The green fabric has that line of stitching because it was cut from a pocket of a night shirt.  I love this fabric and it's appeared in other projects, but I wanted to hint at its prior life.

The Virgin's crown was beaded with all kinds of sparkly things: beads, sequins and pearls.

The halos on the Mother and Child are embellished with tiny mother of pearl buttons, which reflect light like you wouldn't believe, although it's hard to capture on camera.
This is the first layer of embellishment.  It only seems fitting to finish this by Christmas, and the final layer is nearly done.  More pictures by Saturday. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Allie's Madonna

Allie Aller and I agreed to a swap several months ago.  She made me a CQ, "Barbara's Door", one of her lovely and extra-special house quilts, which I have hanging over my sewing machine for inspiration and mojo.  In exchange, I am making her a Madonna Quilt.

I began with an image from Flor Larios, who sells fabric transfers of some of her painted images.  I love the innocence of the figures in her work, plus the baby Jesus in this picture reminds me of my son Alex when he was a baby.  He had the same round face and heavy black hair.   I framed the image with a vintage napkin, which I strategically cut and pieced in order to get the parts of the rose print that I wanted.


I used the left-hand and bottom ribbons in the final composition.  Allie sent me the woven ribbons, and the bottom one, which says "philosophy: believe in miracles" came to me with some wonderful bath salts from my daughter Allie.  I've been saving it for a project like this.  I also found the bit of lace in my stash.  It's the perfect size for a wreath or crown for the Madonna.

I look these pictures with my phone, so they're not so crisp, but I used some textured fabric samples to piece half-square triangles for the outer border.

This is the rough mock-up of the piece.  I must confess that I got stalled for a long time at this stage: there was something I didn't like about the composition, and I couldn't put my finger on it for awhile.  In the meantime, I sewed and ripped out the pieced border in multiple configurations, several times.  Finally, I successfully wrestled it to the ground.  Next I'll show you the final composition and some embellishment.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Scrapbag Explosion

Over the Thanksgiving Day vacation I finished two scrappy tops.  These will go to Debra, who will quilt and donate them to an organization that works with children whose parents are incarcerated.

This first quilt started as blocks made from the leftovers of another scrap quilt.  It's pretty pathetic that scrap quilts produce more scraps, but that's the way it is. 

I'd made several of these star blocks when I saw this faux applique block fabric by Kaffe Fassett on line.  It was the answer to my prayers.  Combining the stars with the floral blocks allowed me to finish this quilt in no time flat.  I had really gotten tired of those stars.  The piano key border allowed me to use up a stack of odds and ends.

Miraculously, the scrap supply is still plentiful, and I paired up some novelty squares and made this quick top.  Plain and simple, sometimes I need a quilt like this just to cleanse my creative palate.

I seem to be clearing the decks for the end of the year.  I've got two unfinished Madonna pieces that I'd like to see finished by the end of next month, so I've got a bit of hand work waiting for me.  In the new year I'm planning to participate in the Crazy Quilt Journal Project and Sharon B's Take A Stitch Tuesday challenge, both starting in January.  I'm looking at these as a chance to work on some long-deferred projects that have been simmering for awhile. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Knitting With Vintage Yarns

I knew it was going to be a good thrift store day when I spotted the plastic pitcher full of older knitting needles.  I am completely outfitted in the needle department, so I rounded the corner to the spot where they keep the yarn, and for $2.50 (it was half price day) I picked up this vintage vest kit, compete with pattern, yarn, and even the plastic rings to make covered buttons.  This is a special find.  The kit has been stored in its original plastic bag so the yarn is clean and the labels are intact.  The pictures of the patterns you can knit from this kit may be the most charming part of the whole package.

I'm not sure that I'll use the yarn to knit myself a pink mohair vest.  I feel like there should be an age limit for wearing pink mohair, and that the cut-off is about 25, but maybe I'll change my mind.  I can easily use the yarn for weaving with a coordinating more sturdy yarn in the warp, or maybe I'll knit a shawl or cowl.  There's plenty of yarn to make something special so that this yarn can finally live up to its full potential. 

I happen to be knitting myself a vest right now from some vintage wool I bought on eBay a few years ago. I'm almost done knitting the back.  I love this gold color (which is more accurately rendered in the photo below).  Yes, it's that 70s harvest gold, but I've had to stop myself more than once from buying sweaters this color in the store, so I know it's in style again.  Knowing I have this yarn has made me resist buying a gold sweater, and now I've cast on this free vest pattern from Lion yarn  to put this loveliness to use.

I knit with vintage yarn because of the savings over buying brand new, plus there's the satisfaction of using something that another knitter loved and saved, but never quite got around to using.

I do buy new yarn too, of course.  I knit this fun scarf for my friend Bernadette's birthday gift.  Over the summer we got together in Ashland, Oregon for a few days, and she told me in advance that she would take to The Websters, one of the best yarn stores ever.  The place definitely lived up to its reputation. 

 I bought a few skeins of my favorite Noro yarn, and some coordinating harvest gold yarn, which I mixed into Shizuku, a free pattern on Ravelry by Angela Tong.

The pattern is fun to knit as well as fun looking.  The little leaves/dangley things are easy to knit, and the famous Noro color changes keep me knitting to see what's next.

I guess I've been in a harvest gold mood for awhile.  Well, that's fall for you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quilting Again

I finished my Friendship Star quilt, which will go to Debra for quilting and donation as part of the Quilt Smackdown.  I made only a minor dent in my stack of 5" squares, but I've gotten the quilt bug again I think.  

Seeing this fabric on another blog added to my enthusiasm for quilting again.  It's a Kaffe Fasset print that was on sale from Hancock's of Paducah.

Of course, I had to get the black too.  There's something about the black colorway that reminds me of Mexican textiles.

The white floral panels are the perfect alternate blocks for these scrappy stars I've been making.  I think I'll add another row of blocks so the finished quilt will be twin sized.  The floral blocks are too small, so I'll add some plain white fabric to size them up. 

Here are three more cotton towels fresh off the loom.  My technique is getting better.   I finished these with some hemstitching, and I threw in an extra row of hemstitching on the towel on the right as a design element.  

I cleaned up my sewing room in preparation for getting the rugs cleaned in the house.  I put away the piles and organized my closet.  Now that I have a nice open and orderly space, I really want to spend some time in there.   Of course, there's a growing pile of midterms waiting to be graded too, so my weekends may be not be mine for awhile. 

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sugar and Spice

Michael's granddaughter Solis is going to be one next month, so I knit her this baby Swing Jacket, pattern designed by Erika Flory, which is available free on Ravelry.  For size 18 months, I used 2 and a half balls of Vanna's Choice yarn, my machine wash and dry able workhorse yarn of choice. 

With the other half ball of Vanna's Choice I knit Solis this matching hat, using a a free Sun Hat pattern from Red Heart Yarn company.  The pattern was a bit more involved than I expected, but it came out exactly as I had hoped.

The hat is being modeled by a doll I made for Allie when she was Solis's age.  It looks pretty good on her, and she may need one of her own.

I also finished knitting myself this shawl, loosely based on a Cheryl Oberle's pattern Wool Peddler's Shawl, from her book Folk Shawls.  The main yarn is a blend of wool, nylon, viscose, angora and cashmere from a recycled Gap sweater.    For the bottom of my shawl, I added some stripes in Trendsetter Yarns Soleil, a cotton yarn that comes with beads and fabric leaf embellishments sewn in. 

I had a heck of a time trying to get the embellishments to not line up the way they insisted on doing.  After two foiled attempts to break up the separation of leaves on one side of the shawl and beads on the other,  I threw in a few short rows to at least bring a leaf down to the shawl point.

In the end I decided that it's a design feature.  Works for me.

I also ran across a wonderful knitting resource:  Laylock's Free Shawl Knitting Cheat Sheet, with formulas for knitting 5 basic shawl shapes, which can be customized in multiple ways.  This could keep me busy for awhile.  

I'm intrigued to see that the cape/ capelet, and yes, gasp, poncho seem to be making a come-back this season. Check out Vogue Knitting's "Into the Woods" pattern group.   So what do you think?  Can you see yourself wearing one of these yet again?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Done and Done

At long last I have some quilts to show for myself.  Debra quilted these finished tops for me (thanks Debra) though it took me forever to put the binding on this one.  Just in time for the beginning of Fall, I bound this quilt and and the pink one below, which I just got back in the mail, and they're ready to be put into use.

This quilt may look familiar since I blogged this top after I finished it. The pattern is adapted from one I saw in a magazine.

Here you can see some of Debra's quilting, and some of the variety of scraps.  It's a real scrap album of the fabrics I've used over the years.

This pink quilt has a distinct story.  I bought this top on eBay a few years ago when I really wanted a quilt made from one of those embroidery kits.  When this quilt came in the mail, I was disappointed because the embroidered blocks are not well executed, and because the pink was too neon for my taste. These embroidered quilt kits have been available for decades, but because of the color, I estimate that this one may be from the 1960s.

This top sat in the closet for a long long time.  At one point I thought I might take the blocks out of the top and re-set them.  Then I finally resolved to just quilt it, and I pieced a backing from some bright 60s-70s prints.

When I went to Texas this summer, I thought, hmmm, maybe Debra will do this for me, and she gamely came through, though this piece had its challenges.  For example, all the fabric was torn, and none of it was straight.  Somehow she got it all to behave, and lo and behold, I love this quirky quilt.

It's a bright pop of color and I smile every time I see it. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Woven Dishtowels from Recycled Yarn

Awhile back I reclaimed some yarn from an unfortunate looking but new cotton sweater.  I've saved it for the right project, and now that I'm weaving, I decided to use it to make some cotton towels.

I warped the loom with the recycled yarn, intending to weave three towels with new Sugar and Cream cotton yarn as the weft. Towels, place mats, and similar shorter pieces can be woven continuously and then cut apart.  It's like weaving one of those old gas station bathroom towels, (except, of course, it's clean).

After I got the first towel woven, I got worried that the new cotton would shrink more than the recycled cotton, which had already been washed, so I wove the other two towels using the recycled yarn for both the warp and the weft.

After I got everything woven, cut off the loom, and machine hemmed, I washed them, and found that the mix of old and new yarns actually came out the best.  The towels made solely of the recycled yarn shrank unevenly, perhaps because the yarn had no twist.  Recycled yarn, especially cotton, can come untwisted.

But the towels were serviceable nonetheless.  The last towel on the warp came out short, as I'm still figuring out how to accurately calculate warp lengths.  Michael got the short towel to use as a golf towel.  The other two went to my daughter Allie.

The towels are soft and drapey.  I'm going to make another batch, this time mixing the new and old yarns.

Recently my son Alex turned 21, and we had a dinner for him at the house.  Here he is with Jessica his girlfriend, who is a favorite of my old cat Wee.

Allie and her boyfriend Matt were also at the party.  It was a very sweet time.  The kids have grown, and now I officially have two adult children.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Woven Shawl Genesis

The school year has begun again, and I've been wrapped up in preparing for and launching my courses, but I did take time to warp my Ashford Rigid Heddle loom for a second shawl.  This one is for me, made of fine gauge wool sock yarn.  I had these yarns in my stash: mostly inexpensive self-striping sock yarns widely available from craft stores: for the warp I used one skein of Soles and More and two skeins of Deborah Norville Serenity yarns from JoAnn.  All the yarns were in fall colors, with lots of orange.  I love orange.

Warping the loom  requires stretching the yarn across my kitchen table and onto a sewing machine cabinet near the window.  Because these are finer yarns, and I'm using the 12 epi heddle,  it takes more wraps to fill the loom than the worsted weight yarn I used in the previous shawl, so warping took a bit longer.  I like to warp on Sunday afternoons and use the couple of hours it takes to enjoy the calm repetitive activity.  Needless to say, no cats are invited to this fiber event.

This is what was left of the three balls of yarn I used to warp the loom.  It took about 660 yards--more yardage than it takes to knit a pair of socks.  Weaving takes a lot of calculation at the planning stage.  I've gotten good about calculating the warp, but my weft calculations have been over generous, and I haven't figured out why.

Here's the loom with the warp tied on and ready to go.  I leave the loom on the dining room table, and weave in several sittings. 

For the weft I used these two sock yarns: Patons Kroy and Lion Sock Wool.  I used a whole skein of the Kroy and about half of the Lion. Both yarns are self-striping.

Here's the finished shawl. I alternated both weft yarns in a random pattern and got this lovely plaid effect.   I double knotted the fringe.

I was hoping for a 20 x 72" shawl, and the finished size was 20 x 66.  Somehow there was more warp take-up than I anticipated, but live and learn.  It still makes a decent sized shawl and I'm thrilled with the fall colors.  And I made plaid!  A very back-to school fabric that reminds me of my Catholic school days.

Sweater Genesis

  A few years ago I learned to harvest yarn from old wool sweaters.  I don't do it so much anymore, with the exception of if I find...