Sunday, August 26, 2007

OCD (Obsessive Creative Disorder)

Before I natter on about everything I have and haven't been doing, here is something I actually finished:
The block is called "Cobblestones". Here's a link to the pattern (I didn't make the brick blocks).
Most of the neutral fabrics were a gift from my friend Mary as part of my 39 1/2 birthday, as you may recall from this post. I added the hint of blush after being inspired by the pink ribbon she tied the fabric with.
I don't know if you can see it in the photos, but it was beautifully quilted by Jacci at Mill Creek Machine Quilting in South Portland, Maine. I think she did a terrific job! A quilt this size, about 65 x 75 inches, is way too large for me to tackle, and quite frankly, even if I did have a table and machine large enough to accommodate it, I dislike this aspect of quilting. I confess. I love buying fabric and I love putting colors together, but I don't actually like the process very much. Cutting is a pain and so is the piecing. So why do I do it? I like the end result. Which is why you are going to think I'm totally crazy...

A while back, two of the women in my quilting group showed us a large scrap quilt called "Brave New World" (from Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting May/June 2006) that they made to donate to an auction. At the time, I oooohed and ahhhhhed all over it and begged them to do a workshop. Many moons later, as the date for the workshop approached, I innocently asked "Oh, what quilt is that?" and was reminded that I was the one who had asked for it. Ooops.

So last Sunday, on the last day of my vacation and less than a week before the workshop, I decided to take a look at the materials list. It called for 64 little squares, and 64 large triangles and 128 small triangles (I am simplifying here) to make a wall quilt that would measure 32 x 32 inches. Well, I decided I'd use up some charm squares from my stash. To explain: over the years I have participated in a number of charm square swaps, where one contributes 6 inch squares of a particular fabric for each person participating. In the past there have usually been around 20 people and two fabric themes. So if the color theme for the month were blues and greens, you'd bring in 20 blue squares and 20 green squares, and come home with 2o different blues and 20 different greens. Now multiply that by 8 (we don't swap all year) and by 5 years or so. It starts to pile up. So, as I was saying, I thought that this "little" scrap quilt would be a good way to use up some of those squares. Ahem.


I decided that I didn't want a wall quilt, I wanted a throw!! Caution: math and madness coming.

The block is made up of 16 units and measures 16 inches when finished. Each unit is made of 4 pieces and measures 4 inches. In order to make a throw (or lap quilt) measuring 60 x 76 inches (including borders) I'd need 12 blocks, plus units for the borders for a grand total of 252 units. Multiply that by 4 and get....508 pieces. Yes 508. Half of a thousand. Fortunately, I didn't do all the math right away. I just started cutting.

and cutting

and cutting
Then I did the math....

and still I cut and cut and cut and cut.

At one point I realized, in a "Jaws" like moment, "I'm going to need more fabric". Before you laugh, think of this: from each 6 inch square I could only get 2 large triangles, 4 squares, or 8 small triangles. I couldn't mix and match. Thankfully, I never got rid of that Hefty bag of scraps that has been gathering dust since I cleaned out the sewing room. You should have seen me on my hands and knees at 11 o'clock at night digging around for pieces large enough to get at least one 2 and a half inch square out of. Oh, sure I could have cut up some of the large pieces of stash I have, but it's supposed to be a scrap quilt!

Every single night last week, I cut. Then I started sewing, and cutting more. Finally, exhausted from all of this "prep" work, I arrived at the workshop Friday night with 133 units already sewn and all the parts (or so I thought) for the remaining 119 units. I was ready to quilt all night. Unfortunately, everyone else was done by 8:00. So, I packed up and went home and knit went to bed and jumped up Saturday morning and started sewing

and sewing

and sewing

By 2:30 in the afternoon, I'd finished 3 blocks. Did I happen to mention that the hot, humid weather is back? The only air conditioning in my sewing room is a window. It gives new meaning the phrase "sweat shop".
This morning I finished 3 more. If I don't count the borders (which I'm not right now since I somehow miscounted and need to make a few more units), I'm half way there! For the most part, things are coming together nicely. However, here's an example of something that is going to bite me in the butt later:
el cheapo fabric that shrunk up as soon as I hit it with the iron. Needless to say, I'm getting a little sick of this quilt. It is eating my life!!! At Mr. Strange's urging, I put it aside for the day to work on a gift for a friend. This is all I'm going to show you because some people who read this will see it and get ideas about who it's for and such, but I'm not even going to show you what color it is!!

I will tell you that it is a lovely something for a lovely person and it doesn't look anything like the lovely thing it was supposed to be because, after all of that math, I can't seem to tell the difference between 2 inches and 3.

You know, the nice thing about knitting is that if I screw up, I can just rip it out and start over.

Knitting. Oh yeah, that thing I used to write about that involves sticks and string...

Haven't done much on Fifi. It looks just about the same as it did the last time I posted a photo.
Before I went on vacation, I had this brilliant idea that I'd make Lemonade from Magknits August 2007 with some GGH Linova that I've been hiding in my stash. The pattern calls for worsted weight cotton yarn knit on size 3 needles to minimize the natural tendency for cotton to stretch. When I knit my gauge swatch, I found that I was getting a lovely, drapey fabric with a dk weight gauge. Nice, but not right for Lemonade. Way back in the cobwebs of my mind, I remembered a book I had... ah yes! Louisa Harding's "Modern Classics" had the perfect simple v-neck cardigan in the exact same gauge. How convenient! Too bad I had to go and make it all complicated by making an extra smaller size and adding shaping. Complicated in the sense that math was involved (yet again, the math!) and, as I was decreasing the neckline for the front, realized that I'd have 4 stitches less to bind off than the pattern and would have to re-do all the shoulder bind-off's and neck shaping for the back.
It was only last week that I realized that "tink" is "knit" spelled backwards. How ironic.

And this, my friends, is what I do in my "spare" time to relax and unwind from my mentally challenging job.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Best of Times

These are the last hours of my summer vacation {sigh}. I wish I could stretch time, or at least slow it down a little, just so I could continue to savor it a little while longer. Since no one has invented a way to do that (yet), I'm doing it my way by refusing to shower (keeping that beach funk alive and well), wearing my flip flops and vacation T-shirt until the last possible minute and drinking one more (OK, maybe 2 more) beers before I have to put it all to bed and wake up Ms. Professional tomorrow morning. This is when I wish, like most everyone else, that I didn't have to work for a living and could spend all of my days like this...

hanging around with friends catching up on the news in a quaint little cottage;
lounging around in our PJ's all morning and making jewelry at the picnic table;
modeling said jewelry in our PJ's and peeps:
going to the local quilt shops;
and enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day.
I spent most of my vacation in Cape Cod near Craigville Beach with my friends above (right to left): Annie, Dee and Renee. As you may recall, Renee is the Southern Belle who told us all about the "semen" in toothpaste and the "grace" that caused my tummy ache at the quilting Getaway. Renee was scheduled to leave on Thursday afternoon to pick up her friend Katherine at Logan Airport (flying in from Dallas) and return to Maine, but Katherine was adventurous enough to join us instead. We picked her up at the bus station in Hyannis - which is not pronounced "Hi-anus".
After a whirlwind shopping trip at Christmas Tree Shop, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Trader Joe's and the local package store for some beer (Cape Cod Brewing Company's IPA is to die for), she was still up for a little crafting the next morning. Now that's our kind of gal!
Here's our parade of paper purses, sitting on the white picket fence.
Afterwards, we spent some time collecting shells and sand for "Seaside Memory" candles to enjoy later,
before heading to Chatham for a little more shopping and sightseeing.
Does it get any better than this?

Thanks Annie, for another great year, and to Renee, Dee and Katherine for a great time!!!!! I feel truly blessed to have spent my days in your company.

In between all of this lounging about, I have been knitting - Fifi is almost done, so naturally I cast on for a new sweater that I'll post about later, along with photos of my finished Cobblestone Quilt and other projects. In the midst of all this vacationing, I neglected my own Blogaversary - 1 year ago, on August 13th, I started this blog. Contrary to my recent habits, I have not forgotten it. Let's just say that it's been on the back burner this summer. In the meantime, thanks for coming back and reading even though things have been a bit spotty around here. Most recently, I was asked a few questions:

Lisa, I'm knitting Fifi with Rowan Calmer, the yarn called for in the pattern. The color is called Lucky and is number 484.

Amy: Eat, Pray, Love was one of the best books I've read in a long time. I wanted to savor every word because her writing is so accessible and her way of describing her experiences and thoughts was so authentic and real. Since reading it, I have recommended it to several people and am longing to go to Italy just to eat! Regarding the quilting, I machine piece everything. I did end up changing the colors of that quilt all around, and am very pleased with the result. One of these days I'll post a photo! And yes, I am a very very lucky girl to have such great friends.

One more hour before bed...time to knit.

Until next time, I leave you with this image:
Yes, that is a real lobster claw shell, and no, we didn't eat the lobster.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It must be summer

Just to prove that I'm not lying around eating bon bons by the pool (the only pool I have is made of sweat) ...
After several (and by that I mean more than 3) attempts to get Fifi started, I'm on a roll. Out of sheer stubbornness, I decided to make the cable cast-on work, and it finally did. I tried it on after my first repeat under the arms, and it fit, but I could tell that I'd need to add some stitches for the "apex" of my bosom. Rather than fuss with short rows, I added 2 extra stitches in the purl channel in the sides, and am crossing my fingers that it does the trick. I'm still loving the yarn, and am just about to start my 3rd skein. Just knowing that I'm on the home stretch is enough for my mind to wander....
Project next? Just a little something I picked up in Camden this past weekend. Details later.

I've had all sorts of great ideas about what I'd like to be doing these days, but more often than not, I come home and fall on the couch with a book. Yes a book! I can barely believe it myself. It's funny how my interests are like spokes on a wheel that turns ever so slowly. For the longest time, I've had no interest in reading, and now I can't stop. I just finished "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (loved it!!) and have just started "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. It doesn't hurt that my office is located across the way from a bookstore and that I have an hour for lunch every day and that it's just lovely outside. All day I planned on sewing tonight, but when I got home, it was so hot and stuffy in my sewing room that I gave up and decided that it was time to post. I had no idea it had been so long!

If it wasn't so hot, I'd be sewing quilt blocks together. I fussed with them forever before deciding that I just didn't have it in me tonight. Here are leftovers, which I plan to make into a small quilt:
This isn't the final layout. Just something that's been spread on my craft room floor for the past week. As I was laying out the large blocks on the living room floor tonight, Mr. Strange commented that he's getting really tired of these colors, and you know, I have to agree. I need to make something PINK or ORANGE or RED for a change!! Of course I bought lots of goodies at the Maine Quilt show last weekend, so I have plenty of options.

Speaking of goodies, the 39 and 1/2 birthday is almost over and I haven't been posting photos for my girlfriends! In no particular order, here are most of those that I've opened since I last posted:
Beautiful note cards from Linda and Renee; Amy Butler fabrics and patterns from Annie and Linda and funky dot fabrics, complete with matching pencil and purse feet (!!!!!) from Betsy.

Chocolates, Dunkin Donuts gift card (in use) and coffee from Annie (I curse you Annie! I can't stop eating those truffles); Knitting lady and car accessories from Winnie (I will never wear my hair in bun); funky sunglasses from Betsy; and a plaque ("Friends are sisters God forgot to give you") and fun ring from Mary.

Sea urchin candle holder and tealights from Renee; box of sand with shells and sea glass from Betsy; and glass tealight holder from Dee. Not shown are the car air freshener, green tea travel candle and purse sachet (from ???) which are all in use.

Thank you thank you thank you!! I've been having so much fun opening my gifts every day and I just LOVE everything.