Monday, January 16, 2017

Guernsey Socks & Doggy Walks

Earlier this year we had some beautiful frosts, with white-edged leaves...

...and shimmery spider webs.

But it's been in the 70s lately, and the forecast shows a string of 65 degree days, so now we're seeing more signs of spring...yes, in January!  Bulbs are sprouting all over.

Birds are out and about.

 It's the perfect temperature for dog walks...

 ...or to curl up with a book beside the water.

It's been busy here, though - a little too busy for relaxed afternoons by the pond - so I've had to be content to photograph our pets enjoying the sun.

I have been amazingly productive so far in 2017, thanks to my plan of being ultra organized and also of moving out of my comfort zone a bit.  Fitting these things into my life means that I'm constantly moving and working in order to fit in workouts, my regular job, keeping the house clean, and everything else.  I will admit to being a little frazzled last week, and I made two mistakes with orders, which I almost never do.  But I'm slowly getting used to the new schedule.

Behold, fancy baking for January!  I finally made Sweetapolita's four-layer sweet potato and ginger layer cake with torched marshmallow filling and Swiss meringue buttercream.  It made for a frantically busy Tuesday and I didn't get the cake finished until after supper, but what a cake!  So rich and moist.  Lessons learned:  Swiss meringue buttercream should be beaten for 8 - 10 minutes, not 5.  Also, I don't like it.  Torched marshmallow filling is amazing.  Sweet potato cake is delightfully different than the usual pumpkin.  Pay attention to the instructions when the amount of filling per layer is specified.

Here it is, day 2, sliced up for Todd's work.

Behold, new craft skill for January!  Crewel work, or working with both embroidery floss and wool yarn.  When in Germany years ago I bought some beautiful indigo-colored linen.  I never used it, and it became dust-stained after about a decade (dust can discolor fabric just like the sun can).  Last week I unrolled the fabric and cut out the pieces that were unaffected.  The largest piece was big enough for a medium-sized pillow, so I started working on it.

That white fabric square is Silky Sulky and it's amazing!  You can run it through your printer or hand-trace a design on it, then peel off the backing.  It will adhere to your fabric, but dissolves in water when you're finished.  I hope to have the pillow done by next week!

Another cool accessory I've discovered this year is fusible web.  I used it this week on my quilt applique project.  Basically you trace your design on the paper side...

 and iron it onto the back side of the fabric.

Then you can cut out the shape and have it exactly match the intended piece.

Now how to fuse these pieces to my quilt face before finally being secured by a blanket stitch?  I guess I have a little more work to do!

Behold, a completed knitting project!  Irish guernsey socks.

I knitted them on a size 1 needle, which is quite small.  Still, I wish they were a tiny bit more fitted, but they stay up when I walk and I think they'll be fine.  I love the pattern! 

I have also finished 4 1/2 books so far this year, gotten into a rigorous housecleaning/organizing schedule, started a twice-weekly Bible study and also a twice-weekly mindful living/meditation study, and branched out with healthy food for both myself and Todd (best discovery so far:  an amazing cauliflower crust pizza!).  I love the feeling that being organized and getting things done has given me, but it's a compromise.  There's no more goofing around on Facebook multiple times a day, or getting lost "down the rabbit hole" of various web sites.  There's no lingering over lunch or lost afternoons on light work days.  No prolonged T.V. evenings.  I'm fully dedicated to 2017 being the year of being ORGANIZED and PRODUCTIVE, and that means being more intentional about doing the things I love and less time on being unfocused because I am unprepared, or doing things that aren't really important.  So far, so good!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tabitha's Snow-paw-calypse

The Great Upstate Blizzard of 2017 came and went, and in the end, it turned out to be...

Instead of the 5 inches of snow and ice expected, we got a bare dusting, and it was melted by the afternoon.  Still, it was pretty, so I took several pictures around the yard.

It's always strange seeing snow on palmettos!

And still strange to see it on flowers.

Now this looks a little more natural!

The cats begged to go outside...and then begged to come in.

Anticipating the snow and subsequent cold snap (it did get down to almost single digits at night for a couple of days!), I picked as many flowers as I could.  The nice thing about camellias is that while the currently-blooming flowers are all dead now, they replenish quickly.  Since it's supposed to be almost 70 by Thursday (!!), we should have a nice crop of new flowers by next week.

As usual, we've been seeing our deer and turkeys almost every single day. 

I saw a turkey with a white head this week.  Curious, I looked it up to see if it was a specific breed of wild turkey.  I found out that turkeys can change the colors of their heads, depending on how they're feeling!  Red/pink (aggressive), white, blue (amorous or calm) cool!

It's been a super busy week for me, but I scheduled out time to start machine-quilting my quilt.  It's larger than a lap quilt but smaller than a full-size, so I told myself that I should be able to do it.  But seeing all that fabric stuffed into such a small space was pretty intimidating.

You basically ignore the fabric bulk and create a "frame" of fabric that's about 4" x 4" around the needle.  It's definitely easier said than done, especially when quilting diagonally.  Sometimes you have so much fabric on the right that your needle pulls to the right.  It was a real workout wrestling with it...but I got the whole thing done in one Saturday afternoon!  Since my quilt is small, it's "lightly quilted" instead of the more heavily stippling or design that you see on bed or art quilts.  More quilting = stiffer (and less comfy) fabric.  For something smaller like this, stitching every 2 inches is apparently better.  You might have to enlarge this photo to see, but here is my design. 

I free-handed the whole thing by attempting to follow the spaces between fabric pieces (the "stitch in the ditch" method) and just eyeballed the spaces between points.  It's not perfect but I'm really happy that it mainly looks like it's supposed to.

It's quite a process, first choosing your design, then the fabric, then the size and utility, and finally the amount of quilting you want to give it.  At least you can say that the end result is a truly unique creation!  Hopefully I can bind it this weekend and have a completely finished quilt by next week! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tactile Textile Pleasure, 2016

A big storm is coming this weekend...well, big for South Carolina.  One to five inches of snow and ice.  This means that I'll spend the weekend outside, taking long walks with my camera and one very excited dog.  That won't leave me much room for my "year-end craft roundup" photos, so here is a supplemental post of last year's gift crafts! 

In 2016, I completed:

- a bulky-weight herringbone cowl
- a quilted wall hanging for the living room
- a pair of fair isle socks
- several pillow covers
- several sample quilt squares
- an embroidered shelf liner for our dining room hutch
- an embroidered sign for Todd's office
- my first vintage skirt
- a pair of mittens
- a lined baby cardigan
- a quilted pillow
- most of a quilt
- most of a shawl
- a set of embroidered napkins
- a cross stitched pin cushion

And, the projects below, kept hidden because they were gifts. First, I embroidered this garden journal cover for a friend, but loved it so much that I made another one for my mother-in-law (size is around 8" x 10").

I love all the little details and had a lot of fun making it.

I also knitted this hot water bottle cover for my mother-in-law.  I LOVE it, especially the pom poms, but it's knitted with fingering-weight yarn and took a little longer to knit than ones I've made in the past with thicker yarns.  Still, POM POMS!

I knitted a few small ornament-sized mittens and made little felt animals for the fronts, to send to a few friends.  I'm looking forward to doing more with felt in 2017!

I knitted this cardigan for our niece.  I made it a little oversized so it could bridge two winters.  I really like it!

I quilted this cheerful table runner for a friend.  It might be one of my favorite projects for 2016.  It was so much fun to make and I think I'm going to do one for our house!

 I knitted these mittens for a friend.  I had a terrible time with them because I made the mistake of using silk yarn (the mustard color) with wool yarn (the rest).  The tension was wonky and I didn't think they looked right at the end.  But, they do fit!

Finally, a failed project for myself.  I got a Kindle Fire mid-December and found an online tutorial for sewing a cute padded case.  A lost afternoon and two too-small attempts later...

...and I realized that my Kindle was possibly a different size than the example given.  Sigh.  I ended up making a padded pouch with a ribbon top.  No pattern, nothing fancy...except I did use one of my sewing machine's fancy stitches across the top.  I originally wanted a button-close top, but my machine ran out of thread mid-buttonhole and it took me 20 minutes to pick out all the thread, and when I surveyed the mangled remains I didn't have the courage to move forward.  I cut off the offending bit, hemmed the top, and inserted the ribbon.  It's perfectly functional!

By the way, am I the only one who can't say "fully functional" without thinking of this Star Trek episode?

So those were my 2016 gift and end-of-year projects.  Looking ahead, I have two embroidery projects I want to try.  Both are stockings.  The first is a plain white stocking embroidered with trees in several shades of green, with bronze beads as accents.  So pretty!

The next is also a stocking, but it's not a seasonal one.  I think it's so interesting and will enjoy seeing it up all year long!

Finally, my brother surprised me with this quilt kit, everything included.  It's folk art and not normally my style, but I love cats and, although it's hard to tell from the picture, the kit contains beautiful soft flannel fabrics in lovely earth tones. 

Here is January:

My goal is to quilt/embroider one square per month.  I need to pick up some interfacing at the store before getting started on this one.  Hooray for cats! 

I received this book for Christmas:

It contains the pattern for the dress that sparked my interest in vintage dressmaking:

Here's another variation:

It's a huge book and I anticipate that it will take me several months to get through it, going slowly and carefully, but I want to make this dress for next winter, to wear with a cardigan and tights.  Red plaid, like the fabric of my Kindle case.   So those are three projects, and I also have other knitting projects (I'm in the middle of a pair of socks and a shawl right now), and other craft projects in general, not to mention finishing my "butterflies and snails" quilt from last year.  It's hard to find time, so I've scheduled out 30 to 120 minute blocks of time throughout the week to keep me on task. 

Phew!  That's a lot, but I love to do it and my hands are always busy, even when I'm watching T.V., so I find little moments to get things done.  

Here's to another year of tactile textile pleasure!  :)