Monday, January 30, 2012


Yesterday was my lucky day -- I was so excited to find out that I won (I WON!!) an amazing giveaway sponsored by the Fat Quarter Shop, through the Swoon-along flickr group.  Yippee!! I have never won a big giveaway before, and I am absolutely thrilled. I hope you'll forgive me for broadcasting this...I'm just so excited! And I also want to thank Katy for coordinating the Swoon-along and giveaways, and Kimberly from the Fat Quarter Shop for offering such an amazingly generous prize. Oh my goodness!

What did I win, you ask?  Only a fat quarter stack of the entire collection of Liz Scott's "Domestic Bliss"!!!  (Not sure how to insert a photo from a commercial website, or if that is please follow the link.  Thanks!)  It looks so beautiful, and I hear that it is even lovelier in person.  I plan to make myself a Lucky Quilt.  Wow. 

Okay, time to serve up dinner and then back to grading.  But I am lucky!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

experiments with Triangulations 3.0 -- and a first Swoon block

In sewing up the first of many Bear's Paw blocks for my Next Big project, I had a chance to try out Triangulations 3.0 -- purchased during a recent Connecting Threads sale.  Triangulations is essentially a collection of pdf templates for stitching up large numbers of half-square triangles at a single go -- with a single line of stitches.  It is brilliant!  Rather than cut and mark and stitch twice and cut and trim a huge stack of fabric squares, I can lay a printout of the template for the size I'm seeking, stitch away, and trim along the marked lines.  It saves lots of time, and uses the paper itself to stabilize so the HSTs don't get distorted during pressing (finger pressing in this case).  For my Bear's Paw quilt, I need 2.5" HSTs, and I can make 12 at a time.  Happy, happy me.

Triangulations 3.0 also includes templates for making flying geese, individual ones or chains of them -- and it struck me that this new tool of mine would lend itself wonderfully to Thimbleberry's "Swoon" quilt design.  I have seen some gorgeous versions of Swoon over the past few months, and then Katy started a swoon-along that has been tempting me (and about 600 other quilters)...but with so much on my plate it didn't seem wise to even dip a toe in that pool.  Nevertheless, with exploration of Triangulations as my justification, I did -- I stitched up one Swoon block last night, using two favourite fabrics (brown "henna garden" and a blue-on-brown dot from Lecien basics) and over the next several months I plan to continue (slowly) adding blue-and-brown Swoons to make a summer-weight quilt for our bed.

Starting at the end, here is the block I made:

And here are a few process shots.  I know the piecing of this block has been causing a few headaches for many people, but I honestly found it pretty fun and straightforward.  It may be that all those tiny Farmer's Wife blocks have raised my tolerance level for fussy piecing (and the unpicking-resewing routine).

The 3.5" HSTs needed for this block can be sewn 8 at a time (8-per-sheet), which happens to be the exact number needed (in this case) of the brown-and-background HSTs and the brown-and-blue HSTs.  I only needed 4 blue dot-and-background HSTs, so used a template sheet cut in half.

Clear as mud, right?  If anyone wants a clearer explanation of how Triangulations works, I can give it a try.  But a quick viewing of this video should do the trick!

Happy stitching!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bear Paw!

Sneak peak, first block -- bear paw -- for  my dad's king-sized quilt.

Lots of "Secret Garden" fabrics in this one, with brown "Painter's Canvas" (yummy!) for the sashing.  In short, it will be quite a traditional quilt design, but made with modern fabrics.

And I can give a hearty endorsement to "Triangulations," which is working brilliantly for quick piecing of the 2.5" half-square triangles; I look forward to using it for the teeny tiny HSTs in some of the Farmer's Wife blocks.

This block doesn't look very pretty from the back: I don't think my Featherweight is the workhorse I would like her to be (as sweet as she is).  I want my Janome back!  I might have time to pick it up today.  Can hardly wait...!

Anyway, I hope you like this sneak peek, Pops.  XO

Saturday, January 21, 2012

North Star

I have several projects awaiting quilting, and a king-sized quilt project waiting to be started (more on that soon, I hope!), but my Janome Horizon has been in intensive care for the past two weeks so I have had to entertain myself with other crafty things.

There has been some knitting.

There has been some stitching of individual blocks for the Farmer's Wife QAL, using my Singer Featherweight.

But one day last week I was seized by an uncontrollable urge to cut up fabric, and at that point I did not yet have all the goods at hand to make a start on the king-sized quilt project. Soooo, on a whim (and before I had much time to think it through) I decided to jump on board the "Made in Cherry" QAL, using Sarah Fielke's beautiful design (a free download from Lecien Japan) for a GIGANTIC patchwork star. 

One of my goals this year is to make full use of my fabric stash, and I had been wanting to do something with all the pale blues I have was my chance!

One morning I spent a couple of hours piecing the eight star points, and I choose a blue solid for the background fabric.  I would have love to use a midnight blue shot cotton I have, but I don't have the 2.5 yds needed for this pattern. Sigh.  This medium blue will do just as well...and, best of all, using it means 2.5 more yards of stash fabric has found its place.

One more sewing session and I had the 100 piece star centre and could get a sense of how the whole thing would look. Ooooo. It's a biggie.

And now I am happy to say that I have the whole top fully pieced.  I am going to call this "North Star" in honour of its icy tones and the several snowflake patterns I used (including a couple of the pale blue Christmas/winter prints from Happy Zombie...I love those and am so glad to have found a way to use them in a quilt).

It took my two tall boys to hold this for a photo.  It is 80 x 80 and really should be on a bed somewhere, ultimately. 

I just found out that my Janome will be ready to come home next week -- repaired (hooray for the 2-year warrantee!) and cleaned.  So the quilting of North Star will have to wait for a while.  Into the queue it goes.

Happy stitching, everyone!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Farmer's Wife sampler: 52 and counting!

I have made another 5 blocks for the Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt, bringing my total to 52 blocks...almost halfway there! Yippee!

I guess I haven't exactly given up on this project. 

I am actually enjoying these little blocks again, and while working exclusively on my Singer Featherweight -- my Janome is still away being cleaned and repaired -- and with lots of demands on my time, the blocks make perfect little projects for the hours after the little one's bedtime.  I have a few major projects in the wings, including a king-sized quilt and curtains I am planning for my parents, and a few quilt-tops that are waiting to be quilted, but until my Horizon is back in circulation these are on hold. So on I plod.

I have tended to work on colour-themed batches of FW blocks, and this time around the blocks are linked by white-and-yellow prints.

Here is block 54, Kitchen Woodbox.  Frida loves the balloon-holding bunnies in this one:

Block 55, Linoleum, which reminds me of the green-and-blue speckled linoleum I had in my bedroom when I was little:

Block 56, Maple Leaf (oh Canada!):

Block 33, City Girl's Puzzle -- a remake of the Farmer's Puzzle block from the book, which had too much resemblance to a technicolour swastika to remain as-is:

And finally block 31, Evening Star:

It's getting tricky to photograph all the blocks together, but I did so in order to plan my next set of blocks.  I'm think a few more green and blue blocks would be good to add to the mix -- but I'm keeping in mind that I am not quite halfway through these blocks, so I could definitely tip the balance in any of several directions. 

I have some choices to make, and I would love suggestions! More blue? More green?  More orange?  Throw caution and planning to the wind, and just choose fabrics block-by-block and see what happens??

Happy weekend to all, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, January 13, 2012


In my knitting history (which is much, much longer than my sewing history), 2007 was the Year of the Sock (the toe-up sock, to be exact).  Well, 2011/12 is turning out to be the Year of the Mitten!

I hadn't been doing much knitting since I started sewing two years ago, but I did pick it up again for a little while last winter and then again over the past couple of months -- really enjoying small projects (mittens!!) worked on when we (have a chance to) watch TV.

I absolutely love doing stranded colourwork -- back when Chloe and Jackson were little I made a series of steeked colourwork projects from the book Small Sweaters by Lise Kolstad and Tone Takle, still one of my all-time favourite knitting books.  And I have made many, many pairs of Norwegian (patterned, two-colour) mittens over the years, mostly from this vintage reprint pamphlet which I have had for about 20 years.

The patterns from this book are all very tightly knit -- with the gauges ranging from 7 to 9 stitches per inch.  Like so many vintage patterns, the finished objects come out rather petite if you follow exactly, so I have never been very precise about gauge when making mittens, and don't quite follow the yarn and needle size recommendations in this book.  I have successfully used everything from DK to bulky weight yarn, all on much smaller double-pointed needles than usually recommended for those heavier weight yarns.  The result has been many years of densely knit, very warm mittens (especially warm because the all-over patterning of Norwegian mitts means the whole thing is double-stranded ...Norwegians understand winter weather).

This past October I noticed that I had worn a hole in the cuff of my own pair of mitts -- which were made from a lovely deep purple lopi wool with a white star, that classic Norwegian mitt pattern featured in the lower left-hand corner of the pamphlet, above.  So I made a new pair for myself, using wool from my yarn stash and following one of the few patterns in the pamphlet (Rose) I hadn't made before.

Energized by this make but also a bit weary of my well-worn pamphlet, last month I made an impulse buy on Amazon, ordering Annemor Sundbø's Norwegian Mittens and Gloves (Trafalgar Square Books, 2011).  It is a beautiful book, full of interesting patterns both classics and more unusual ones.

What really captures my imagination is Sundbø's back story.  She explains how in the early 80s she came to be the owner of one of the last sjoddi (recycled wool) mills in Norway -- and with it she inherited bags and bags (16 tons) of woolen goods that had not yet been recycled into stuffing for mattresses and so on. On the one hand, the sjoddi industry sounds brilliant!  Wool is entirely recyclable -- into future yearns, if the quality is good, and into stuffing, if not.  Why don't we do this???

But beyond that, it looks like Sundbø discovered a treasure trove of Norwegian knitted goods, including the worn-out mittens and gloves from which she charted patterns for this book.  I love the fact that each pattern is accompanied by a photo of newly-made mitts or gloves but also by a photo of the original item that inspired the pattern -- holes, frayed edges and all.

Ahhhhhhh.  Aren't these beautiful?!

The patterns in Sundbø's book are made from finer yarns than those I had been using, but I have a plentiful stash of fingering and double knitting weight yarns (apparently I am a craft-supply hoarder from way back), so I was able to put both Chloe and Greg's mitten requests in the queue right away.  Chloe spoke up first, so I am making her choice: "Olive Mittens" in a deep red and cream combination.  These are pure pleasure to make, so I'll let  the photos do the talking.

Next up will be Greg's choice, "Daddy Longlegs" gloves  -- so appropriate for my long-legged husband -- for which he has chosen shades of dark gray.  Can hardly wait...!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Haunted by the FWQAL

I promised an upbeat knitting post, and there's one coming -- but I'm currently haunted by the FW blocks so I have to say a little more about them.  I have been knitting for 30 years and it feels like second nature; knitting projects don't worm their way into my brain the way these little FW blocks have done (or at least they haven't for a long time).  I love the mittens I'm working on, and the book I'm using is so interesting that I really do want to share it with you all, and will do soon, I promise...but please bear with me!  The comments on my last post were so helpful -- I truly appreciate them!

SO: I thought I was done, or at least due for a lengthy sabbatical from "farmer's wife" stitching, but I guess I'm back.  I just can't get this project out of my mind, and although it may take a long, long time to get the blocks done, and although some of my blocks are less than perfect, I'm going to keep trying.

I whipped up my 44th, 45th, and 46th blocks -- and each one had to be pieced twice to get them to size. (I didn't measure until I had pieced all three.  Brilliant, huh?)  Yuck.  I am a bit of a glutton for punishment, I guess.

I am working on my 1947 Featherweight right now, while my Horizon is being cleaned and repaired (I have problems with the bobbin case leaping out of place).  I love the Featherweight, but even with my new 1/4" foot and seam guide -- which have helped me to get a reliable scant 1/4" seam on this little machine -- I still end up with FW blocks that are smidge undersized.  I think there may be a little problem with the printing of the pdf's from my FW disk...I don't know.  I don't generally have this problem with the FW blocks pieced on my Horizon.

NEVERTHELESS, I am going to hang in there.  The blocks don't need to be perfect, they don't need to be done by a deadline, and as long as I am getting some satisfaction from making them I am going to keep on going!  My main goal is to choose fabrics for them that I really like.

So here are block 58, Mother's Dream -- which had been languishing in a half-made state:

block 77, Seasons (a new one):

and block 92, Streak of Lightning (also new):

And finally I made a beautiful fussy-cut version of block 85, Square Dance, but it too was undersized and I haven't had the heart to rip it open and re-do.  More on that in a future installment of the farmer's wife melodrama!

Next up: bright, cheerful, and angst-free Norwegian mittens, I promise!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Leaving the farm?

My love affair with the farmer's wife blocks may be at an end...the passion has certainly cooled.

As determined as I was to see this 100+ block sampler project through to the end, I have to admit that I am losing steam -- although I have 100+ ideas for new projects!

After a very lengthy hiatus, I made three new FWQAL blocks today.  The first was a little beauty, and I still felt good about things at that point:  here is block 32, Farmer's Daughter:

This evening I made two -- count 'em -- versions of block 19, Checkerboard.  Small variances in my 1/4" seams (I am working with the Featherweight right now...more on that later!) across five blocks in each (diagonal) row added up to a block that was about 1/4" under size.  Here is take two, which is to size -- but not the most interesting block I have ever made:

And then, finally, I made block 22, Corn & Beans, which has (I know) caused some people in the QAL some grief -- but which I actually enjoyed making.  What I don't enjoy is looking at the finished block, which is a smidge too big and much too "dotty" (all those small dark polka dots emphasize imperfections -- bad choice on my part).


After this, it was time to take stock -- so I spread out all 43 completed blocks on my kitchen floor for a group shot.

The conditions are not ideal; it is hard for anything to look its best on our kitchen floor, at night, with our nasty overhead light.  I think I could make a nice looking lap quilt from what I have (perhaps eliminating or adding just a couple of blocks), maybe with white sashing and dark orange-red cornerstones.  But I don't know that I want a queen-sized quilt from these blocks...I just don't know.

If I do decide to continue with this project, I might make the next twenty blocks in a much more limited palette and then reassess.  Then again, there are soooo many other things I would like to make, that it is hard to contemplate making another 20 - 68 blocks if I'm lacking conviction and passion.  Time for a break, methinks.

Next post will be a much more upbeat report on my winter knitting, which is all about Norwegian mittens this year!