Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movin’ Day

I love my studio. Don’t get me wrong.

When my dear husband Tim and I bought this house, we weren’t sure what we were going to do with the detached outbuilding that in a former life had been a garage.

During the moving-in process, however, anything that had to do with quilting or knitting or crafts of any sort went into the studio until further notice. But once it was all collected there, I/we thought, well, that would be a good space for Laurel’s sewing space. And thus, it became so.

The one major drawback to this plan is that the space is unheated. Early on, I bought a digital thermometer to park out there. I don’t think it’s ever registered below freezing, but sometimes it feels as though it’s getting close.

I have an electric space heater out there, which helps, but only so far.

Lately, I've been wanting to go out there to work on this project or that, but have held back because it’s just too . . . darn . . . cold.

So this evening, I brought in my sewing machine. It will live on the dining room table for the next four or five months. Fortunately, that table is not often used; our kitchen is configured in such a way that there is a bar-type counter with two bar chairs that is perfect for us.

In theory, I could leave my Pfaff in the studio, and use my old Kenmore. But I prefer the Pfaff.

I also have an extra iron, cutting mat, and tabletop ironing board, so I don't need to truck much else in from the studio. Those items live in the house year round.

I will still need to go out to the studio to retrieve some thread or other notion. But I will not be spending much time out there until it warms up.

That is, if it ever does. This is Seattle after all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Live and Learn

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

That’s what I thought about making a pair of silk socks.

Last night, I ”finished” the first one. I wrote “finished” because I stopped working on it and kitchenered the toe sooner than I should have. Why? Because I was getting frustrated.

I don’t know what changed, but the yarn was getting really sticky. It was not sliding off the needles easily. This had happened on occasion, but if I put the knitting down and came back to it later, it seemed to go away.

But as I was working on the toe, it just . . . kept . . . sticking. Which is bad enough when you're working on a regular round, but when it's on the decrease and the number of stitches you’re working with keeps getting smaller. . . . Well, let’s just say that it wasn’t fun.

I knew that I still should do more on the toe, but I ignored the little voice in my head and went ahead and stitched it closed.

Technically, it fits, but I can feel the seam more than I should.

On other socks I've made, I haven’t succumbed to single sock syndrome. Maybe at some future date, I will cast on the second silk sock. But, for now, I think I will take a break and work on something else.

Perhaps I will make something with the yummy alpaca yarn I received for Christmas from my lovely husband, Tim.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rumballs for Christmas!

My friend and former co-worker Robin has on occasion brought rumballs to the company Christmas potluck. They are always a big hit (I wonder why!)

A few days ago, I emailed her asking for the recipe, and she kindly sent it.

This morning, I put on my Christmas earrings for the first time this month, put on my favorite Christmas CD, and set about making rumballs.

The ingredients

In the bowl, ready to be mixed. The small bowl to the left contains the cocoa/sugar mixture the balls get rolled in.

All mixed up

Ready to be chilled in the refrigerator

Robin said the recipe came from her maternal grandmother, and that her brother would try to see how much rum he could add and still get the dough to form a ball.

No-Bake Rum Balls

1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs (like Nabisco Nilla wafers, but you should be able to find a store brand) (crush fairly fine — a food processor works well)
1 cup coarsely ground pecans
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-1/2 tablespoons corn syrup (Robin’s recipe called for light corn syrup, but I used dark corn syrup because I had some on hand)
1/4 cup rum
white sugar

Place 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl and set aside. (Robin says you can substitute a mixture of 1/2 cocoa powder and 1/2 powdered or granular sugar. Because I believe that chocolate makes everything better, I opted for cocoa and granular sugar.)

Mix together all the other ingredients. Add a little more rum if it seems dry. Form into 1-inch balls. The dough be sticky and get all over your hands. (This is very true. I had to wash off my hands after rolling 4 or 5, first making sure to lick off all I could. Don’t want to waste good rum.)

Roll each ball in sugar or sugar/cocoa. Store in an airtight contained in the refrigerator. Robin says these taste best at room temperature, but after all the flavors have melded together (about 12 hours) and should keep fresh for a week or so.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Checkerboard Borders

Been working on the cutting for Shelly's quilt. I did the cutting for the inner Cross blocks and the outer Star blocks in late November/early December. The checkerboard borders were a little more involved. First there was cutting and sorting into sets of three.

Then sewing the sets together.

Pressing came next.

Finally, crosscutting the strip sets into smaller units, and sorting them into the sets for each side border and each top/bottom border.

My lovely husband Tim is always somewhat bemused by this process of cutting large pieces of fabric into small pieces, sewing them together, sometimes cutting them some more, and then sewing all the bits back together into one big piece.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nearly Done

Since this post, I have made good progress on the silk sock. I tried it on the other evening to see how close I was getting to the toe. I decided about 10 more rounds should do it, and now I've got about one more to go before I begin the toe decrease.

One thing I discovered when I tried it on was that the cast on at the top of the leg was a smidge tight. Well, more than a smidge. I had trouble getting it over my heel, but by taking it slow and easy, I was able to ease it around.

I think when I do the second one, I will cast on with size 1 or 2 needles. If I wanted to get fancy, I could do a provisional cast on that leaves a nice stretchy edge. But I think I might be a little lazy for that. Maybe on a future pair.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Birds and More Birds

The same day earlier this week when I walked around Green Lake and took those pictures of items lost and found, I also took several pictures of the different birds I saw, besides the usual mallards and grebes. One species I have seen before; they migrate through about this time of year.

Hooded mergansers

I also saw a couple of herons. One was up in a tree. He was all hunkered down and I could only see his body. I spent a few minutes walking all around the tree trying to get the best view. This even caused other people to stop and look up to see what had attracted my attention.

He did poke out his head once, just a little bit.

A little farther around the lake, I saw another heron in his more usual habitat — in the water waiting for dinner.

I also saw two other kinds of birds that I had not seen at Green Lake before: common goldeneyes and American widgeons.

Common goldeneye

One widgeon

Many widgeons

Looks like the other widgeons, except his head is colored differently

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lost . . . and Found

Yesterday, I went for a walk around Green Lake. As I walked, I started taking random photos, but soon a theme emerged.

It was a cold, cloudy, gray day. I wasn’t walking particularly fast, because I was looking around a lot, just to see what would catch my eye. First, there was a red baseball cap on a park bench.

Next, I saw a small red mitten on a tree.

Then, another red mitten.

Next, a pink and white sock.

Followed by a blue glove in a tree.

Another red mitten.

And yet another.

A toddler's tennis shoe.

A mitten, this time blue.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quilted and Ready for Binding (Almost)

Before I started this blog, I had sewn together this quilt and had begun quilting it.

It is based on a quilt called “Never Take Beer to a Job Interview” from Country Threads Goes to Charm School. But I used 10-inch Layer Cake squares instead of 5-inch charm squares. The resulting block is thus 7-1/2 inches finished instead of 3 inches, and the border squares finish to 2-1/2 inches instead of 1 inch.

I also added another row of squares along the top and bottom. The original quilt design had only one row.

A couple of nights ago, I finished the quilting. Or so I thought. When I looked at this close-up photo of the quilting in the center of the star blocks, I noticed that there was no outline quilting in the piece below the center square.

And that wasn't the only place I missed quilting. So I'm not quite done after all. I could still go ahead and bind it, since the bits to be quilted are not near the edge.

But I think I'll finish the quilting first.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Yarn Bombing

I first heard about yarn bombing last year, when Bellevue, Washington, got hit.

Then, last week, I had lunch in downtown Seattle with my friend Julie. We went to a place we'd been to before, a little soup and sandwich shop near Occidental Park. The yarn bomber had been busy there as well.

My understanding is that the installation stays there until it disintegrates. In the meantime, however, Julie told me that the homeless people who congregate in the park are very protective of it. She said that it's not often that people come along and beautify their environment.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Flower Children

When I was young, there was a book called Mother Earth’s Children: The Frolics of the Fruits and Vegetables on the shelf that I guess actually belonged to my aunt Alta, and was later returned to her. It’s funny what memories stick with you from childhood.

Published by P.F. Volland & Company, the copyright date is 1914, and it must have belonged to Alta when she was little. As I recall, it was somewhat tattered but still holding together.

It was a book of four-line poems, each one about a different fruit or vegetable, with accompanying illustrations. They ranged from the commonplace, such as the Apple, Pear, and Orange, to more exotic ones, such as the Truffle, Oyster Plant, and Carrageen.

When I was in my twenties, I was browsing at a crafts fair and there was a vendor selling pages from this book that she had cut out and matted. I bought a few and gave one to each of my sisters.

Later on, I think sometime in the 1990s, I was in a quilt fabric shop and saw some fabric that I recognized immediately as being based on this book. Or so I thought. On closer examination, I saw that the images on the fabric were not fruits and vegetables, but flowers. Of course, I had to purchase some yardage!

With a little research, I discovered that the author, Elizabeth Gordon, had collaborated with illustrator M.T. Ross on two other books — Flower Children: The Little Cousins of the Field and Garden ©1910 and Bird Children: The Little Playmates of the Flower Children ©1912. She had also written Wild Flower Children: The Little Playmates of the Fairies, illustrated by Janet Laura Scott ©1918.

Around ten years ago, I came across this great website called Alibris, where I purchased vintage copies of Mother Earth's Children, Bird Children and Flower Children. Wild Flower Children was also available, but too expensive. As luck would have it though, a publisher called Derrydale Books had reissued all four books and I was able to purchase Wild Flower Children at a reasonable price. These are still available through Amazon.

But with no further ado, here is the quilt I made from the six panels included in the fabric design, along with close-ups of three blocks and their corresponding page from Flower Children. (If I recall correctly, the fabric was part of a line from In the Beginning fabrics.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mini Sock Ornaments

This is a great way to use leftover yarn.

The photo shows several of the mini sock ornaments I've knitted over the last several months. I've been using a pattern by Stacey Trock available on Ravelry, which I modified slightly. I knit 20 rounds before I start the heel flap, instead of 13. I felt the leg of the sock needed to be longer.

Here are a couple of close-ups:

The hanger loop is a two-stitch I-cord.

I've made the pattern so many times I've nearly got it memorized. That's great, but I thought it might be time to change things up just a little. So I went looking for a mini sock pattern that called for a short-row heel. And through the magic of the interwebs, I found this.

The new pattern has a more complicated way of knitting the cuff and more stitches in the round. Essentially, I'm going to take the number of stitches (24) in Stacey's pattern, knit a regular K1P1 cuff, and rework the instructions for the short-row heel from the second pattern to fit that number.

I'll let you know how it works out!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shelly’s Ten-Year Quilt

Later today, I plan to get out my rotary cutter and start cutting the fabric shown below into smaller pieces.

(BTW, the fabric in the lower right which appears to be blue is actually purple.)

Eventually, it will all be reassembled into something resembling this:

. . . which is based on a quilt from a book called Bright Quilts from Down Under.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Afternoon

In my family, after large holiday meals, my father liked to take what he termed “post-prandial strolls” and I have continued this tradition.

Today, my lovely husband Tim and I went up to Bellingham to share Thanksgiving dinner at the home of his sister Nancy and her husband Jerry. After an early afternoon repast, Tim and I went for a walk in Whatcom Falls Park, which is directly adjacent to Nancy’s house.

On our outing, we crossed the bridge above the falls. The bridge was constructed as a WPA project in 1939-1940 and has a vintage appeal to it lacking in more modern constructions. Being significantly covered by moss helps.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fun with Stamps

Today is the 95th birthday of my aunt Alta, my mom’s older sister.

When my sister Palma reminded me of this last week, I thought a special card was in order.

A few weeks ago, I had gotten out a set of stamps I bought in the late ’90s at some crafts fair. The packaging specifically touted them as being designed to recreate quilt block designs, so of course I had to get them. They came with a box of blank cards, and I also purchased a number of ink pads (which after all these years have not dried out and are still quite usable).

The box of cards became a Christmas present for my mom, each stamped with a different quilt block. The box I have now I bought later from the same vendor. (I suppose if I wanted more I could write to the street address on the booklet to see if they are still in business. There is no phone number and no web address.)

I hadn't used the stamps in a long time, but I wanted to make a unique birthday card for a co-worker. In the same drawer are some Crayola stamping markers that used to belong to my daughter, as well as a set of alphabet stamps.

My stamping supplies

The front of the card

The inside of the card