Friday, 13 November 2015

I know my grandsons are adorable

… now you can see it too! (If the watermark is troubling you, please squint: I want to make sure no one steals their photo easily!)

2015-10 Benjamin and Daniel preschool
This is their preschool photo taken recently!

Handsome fellows, aren’t they?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

finished flimsy

In September, DD and the Grandsons came to visit for two weeks – which was wonderful. It seems so much longer than five weeks since they left. After his experience at Easter time, Older Grandson wanted to sew! This time, Younger Grandson wanted to sew too – but the truth is, he just wanted to be allowed to play with the buttons and dials on my sewing machine!

Older Grandson decided that since he had made blocks from strips last time, this time he was going to make blocks from squares. He chose my container of 3” squares. There was no way that I was going to be left making a quilt entirely from 5” four-patch blocks (b-o-r-i-n-g), so I looked through a book which I later gave to DD (so I can’t tell you what it was called – WM found it at work and brought it home in case I was interested in it) and decided to make a block comprised of two four patches and two units containing half-square triangles. In the unknown book, the block is called “Road to California” but in my “Encyclopaedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns” by Barbara Brackman, the block with this name is a nine-patch block. I couldn't find the block we were making in the Brackman “encyclopaedia” but I eventually found it on EQ7 as “Road to Oklahoma”. The version we made has a light square in the corner where EQ7 has a dark square but, essentially, it is the same block.

OG quickly lost interest when he realised that more care had to be taken when choosing a light square and a dark square (as opposed to randomly selecting any strip) and aligning them carefully before sewing them together. He also realised that all his younger brother was doing was pushing the start/stop button and so that’s what he decided to do too! Therefore, I really can’t say this time that the blocks were made by either grandson. DD, too, lost interest because of the matching of points that has to take place – she’s a perfectionist and if it wasn't exactly right she got frustrated (I can live with a millimetre or two out!) So, in essence, I made the entire flimsy.

At first, I really didn't like it. The lights and darks weren't working as I thought they should. It just seemed too scrappy, too disordered; I like scrappy but need it to be controlled somehow -- usually by the pattern of lights and darks, and this just didn't seem to be coming together. I still don’t have a design wall so I have to use the floor to see what I'm making. Because the blocks were ten inches finished, I needed to have five and a half blocks across and six and a half blocks down to make the flimsy within the size requirements of our quilt group. I, therefore, could see no other way to set the blocks but “straight”; that is, every block (or half block) facing exactly the same way. If I’d had an even number of blocks both ways, there all kinds of permutations on EQ7 that I could have used. But it was not to be!

What is surprising is how quickly this came together; especially considering there 715 pieces in this quilt top. I really didn't want to work on it but had to keep moving the finished blocks and part-blocks every time I wanted to do something else (like play the piano or use the computer). So I bit the bullet and got to work on it. It took three days but I finally completed it last Thursday. So, here for your viewing pleasure, is my Road to Whoopi flimsy. (“Whoopi” is the nickname given by the locals to Woolgoolga, the town where DD, SIL and the grandsons live). Don’t look too closely then you won’t see all the places where the points don’t match exactly! ;-)
2015 R2W flimsy

It’s not by favourite quilt by any means but, seen in this photograph, the lights and darks are working as they should and the extreme scrappiness is under control. I think I'll quilt it with a light thread through the diagonal light squares (going down from left to right) and with a darker thread through the diagonal dark squares (going the opposite way). But first, of course, I have to make a backing.

Hopefully, I'll be back sooner rather than later to show you either the finished quilt or some photos of our garden or of the grandsons on their recent visit.

In the meantime, may your stitching bring you joy.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

mum’s blankets

Yes, I'm still here though I probably don't have many followers or readers left!

My life is full of crafting -- there are quilts to make and knitted blankets to complete.

Most of you would know that my mum, who has dementia, came to live with us in March. She can still remember how to do garter stitch but not how to cast on, cast off, change colour, count rows, or fix any problems that may arise during knitting (like dropped or split stitches). Therefore I have to do all those things for her. Consequently my days are filled with the usual household chores and attending to her needs for food, drink and entertainment (largely knitting) while also trying to make some quilts myself (more about that in another post but don't' hold your breath!) 

Afternoons, when WM is home from work, are filled with gardening (oh, you want to hear about that too, do you? Again, don't hold your breath). We are slowly turning what used to be a jungle into a cottage garden on one side of the house and a native garden on the other side -- closer to the bush. Gardening is both our shared time and our therapy time. 

Evenings, after dinner, are mostly spent in front of the television with WM and mum, while joining together the strips that mum knits,. Man! she can turn them out faster than I can turn them into blankets! I had to stop knitting borders in short rows of six to ten stitches, all that turning of a heavy blanket was slowing me down too much so I had to teach myself how to make mitred corners so I could knit the borders long-wise. None of those blankets are in these pictures – you’ll have to wait for the next time I write about blankets to see those!
In this post (written in July, I can hardly believe it), I showed you the first of mum's two blankets. The first was knitted in squares which I had to sew together (Never again, I like hand-sewing but joining squares that are not square is painful!) The second blanket was made of strips that went crosswise on the blanket.

The third blanket was also knitted crosswise but this one, unlike the previous, was knitted in cool colours in left over yarns from other projects.
mum's blanket #3   

By the time we got to the fourth blanket, I pushed it a little harder and managed to get longer strips – but not quite long enough to make a full length blanket so, no only did I have to knit the strips together, I also had to knit other strips on each end to get the blanket to a reasonable length.
mum's blanket #4

By now, mum was on a roll with the knitting and seemed to be progressing quite comfortably with longer strips so I had her knit strips that are fifty stitches wide by 300 garter ridges long (in 8ply/DK acrylic – wool would be too heavy on metal straight needles; she doesn’t understand how to use circulars which she used to handle quite easily). And thus we have blankets #5 and #6.  (I know, they look like the same blanket but they’re not; they are, however, made from the same yarns).
mum's blanket #5mum's blanket #6

Blanket #7 is on the floor on one side of my knitting chair. Blanket #8 is on the table between my chair and WM’s chair. Blanket #9 is in progress but we’re back to crosswise strips. I bought a different brand of yarn and, although it is still ostensibly 8ply acrylic, it is much thicker and harsher to work with than the yarn in the previous three blankets. Thinking of the weight on mum’s wrists on those stiff metal straight needles, I have reverted to crosswise strips; of which five are needed – strips #3 and #4 are on the needles at the moment (she always has two strips in progress so she can be knitting one while she waits for me to deal with the other).
As you can see, there is no time for my own personal knitting. I have knitted one sock in eight months – yes, one sock; not one pair, one sock!
But it’s still knitting and some (unknown) people will be blessed by the blankets which WM works to buy the yarn and mum and I craft in a joint project.
See you sometime with my works in progress! And in the meantime, may your stitching bring you joy.

Friday, 18 September 2015

a very special visitor

Today we had a visit from an Australian native bird, a kookaburra. He (actually we don't know if it's a male) has been sitting on the fence for a few days, apparently waiting for us to feed him (look at that beak, he's a carnivore). Today he flew right up on to the balcony rail and stayed there for about twenty minutes -- long enough for me to phone DD and have the boys meet our visitor through the magic of the Internet.

You can see he wasn't at all fussed about how close we got to him either!

Kookaburras are related to kingfishers. We didn't have any meat in the house but we did have some raw/green prawns (shrimp). He didn't seem to like it much but eventually ate about half a prawn -- I hope it doesn't upset his digestion too much. Perhaps he will visit us again -- we'd better see if we can find some more curl grubs in our daily gardening sessions; what better use for these root eating pests than to feed them to a beautiful native?

Friday, 28 August 2015

still here, still stitching

I’m sure you quilters know that moment when you lose the love for a project. It’s when the end is almost within sight but there are still some hours to be put in. Well, at least that’s how it is for me.

Actually, I don’t feel like that very often – perhaps because my quilting is usually fairly straight-forward although, as you may have noticed, I am becoming more adventurous.

I still quilt the “old way” – I knot the strands on the back of the quilt and hide the ends in the wadding. My good friend, Cindy, who blogs at Delighted Hands, suggested I try taking small stitches at the beginning and end of each line of quilting and then cutting the threads. Well, I tried that method – I really did. I even tried it in class. My teacher and I discussed it and we tried three different methods but the stitching just pulled out! So I went back to the old way.

Now that is usually not too bad but this time I set myself a real challenge. My Wonky Quarter Log Cabin quilt is made up of twenty 12” blocks. I decided to accentuate the wonkiness by echo quilting around each block. That wasn't too bad – mostly I just had one pair of ends to sew in for each of the twenty blocks.

It took a while to decide on a way to quilt the blocks themselves and finally I settled on radiating lines, carefully avoiding the diagonal through the centre of the block so as not to draw attention to the fact that different width strings don't meet at the diagonal. I chose to do three radiating lines either side of the diagonal – that’s six lines for each block or twelve ends to be sewn in – for twenty blocks.
finished quilt detail finished quilt detail 2

The first two blocks took three hours to mark up and sew, and that didn’t include sewing the ends in. I still struggle to move a twin size quilt under my machine even though my machine has a 9” harp space. The weight of the quilt drags and catches and I am still learning how best to handle the quilt for the more intricate types of walking foot quilting I do (yes, walking foot – I don’t have a good grip on FMQ and am nowhere near ready to use it on my quilts).

I did get faster with each block but I still estimate that I spent about thirty hours quilting this project and sewing all those ends in. When I thought I was almost done and realised I was only 40% of the way through, having completed only eight blocks, I lost the love.

But, I am the kind of person who likes to finish what I start and today I sewed the label on that baby!

And, guess what? I found the love again. I really, really like the quilting; especially the way I’ve extended the radiating lines into the top and left side border – a stroke of inspiration.
finished quilt from front
As usual, the back includes my signature panel made up of “left over blocks” (I actually had to make the blocks for the back as DD and OG had only made nineteen of the twenty blocks needed for the front – see this post for the full story).
finished quilt from back
I’m linking this post with Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday which is being hosted at My Quilt Infatuation. Why not pop over there and see what other people have finished this week? Perhaps you also have something to contribute.

I’m hoping to be back soon to show you a couple of mum’s completed blankets but spring is just three days away and it’s very tempting to be out in the garden!

Until then, may your stitches bring you much joy.