Monday, January 31, 2011

Starting The New Year Right!

My January 2011 Bead Journal Project is Starting The New Year Right. For me, starting the new year right means using my favorite color for beading. I really like all shades of blue, but this periwinkle blue is my all time favorite. It makes me happy, happy, happy!

When I was very little, my sister and I would help my mother bake Christmas cookies. My sister, 14 months older, decided that red was her favorite color and so the cookies with the red sugar were hers. I can remember my mother telling me that green was my color and the cookies with the green sugar were mine. For a long time green was my favorite color. I still like green, but I love blue.

I've used blue in other Bead Journal pages. I used blue to show Abundance here and Tranquility here and to remember Morocco here.

Technical Details:

The foundation is Lacy's Stiff Stuff painted with watered down blue Dye-na-Flow.

This page contains the usual combination of 15/0s, 11/0s, 8/0s, and 6/0s plus some hexes, cubes, and charlottes. There are also some flat teardrop shaped beads and some flat round beads.

I used the backstitch and the stop stitch.

The page is 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. That's the same size as my 2010 Bead Journal pages.

The thread is blue Nymo D.

What I Was Thinking:

Happy thoughts! I love working with blue. This page has a very small range of color and value, and it was interesting to see myself continue to try to limit that range. And I wondered whether I could really do all twelve pages for 2011 in different shades of blue.

Issues that Came Up:

The most challenging thing about this page was trying to get it balanced. The three "wallpaper motifs" above the row of bugles went on early. The three "eyebrows" (that's the way I think of them--call them what you want) of 6/0 beads seemed so heavy. I didn't have any more of the 6/0 beads to use elsewhere on the page. In the end, I think the teardrop beads and the three smaller "wallpaper motifs" above the "eyebrows" helped to balance the page. Ripping was not required.

And now, can I really do all twelve pages for 2011 in different shades of blue? No need to decide till tomorrow, when February starts.

The Satisfaction of Working Without a Plan

Here's the final--fifteenth--block for my small lap quilt. It's called Eddystone Light. I always thought this block had a pretty cool name, but I had no idea what it meant. For more information, I went to The Real Source Of All True Knowledge, Wikipedia. You can read about the Eddystone Lighthouse here. If you want to hear the song about the Eddystone Light, go here.

My next step in this project is to add sashing and borders. This will be the perfect project for our expected snow day(s) Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday.

I made each block (see previous posts for the others) one at a time. I either picked out a block pattern and chose the fabric, or chose the fabric and picked the block. Then I cut the fabric and sewed the block. As I got most of the blocks finished, I started thinking about balancing the shapes of the blocks and the fabrics in the blocks. As far as I can recall, I have not made any of these blocks before, except possibly Ohio Star.

I really enjoyed working this way because of the variety in activity. The figuring, planning, cutting and sewing were spread out so I did some of each with all the blocks. It was always interesting.

Of course, there can be pitfalls in not planning ahead--a design that veers off to an unsuitable side, no unity in design, running out of fabric, the constant mess of having everything out all the time (so that one doesn't bother me at all). But for a sampler quilt, the no-plan method worked well.

I'm anticipating an attack of quilt block withdrawal. This project was so much fun that I need to start thinking of the next one I can do the same way.

And right now I don't think it will be my traditional January/February project, trying to perfect a pants pattern. Although I do need to adjust my pants pattern (lost 4 pounds--woo-hoo!), I'm in the mood for more fun. If you want to find out about my adventures in fitting pants, go here and here and here

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some More Blocks And A Non-Block

A few more blocks:

Darting Minnows:

Gentleman’s Fancy:

Beacon Lights:

Westland: This was an interesting block because the corner squares had to be inserted with a Y-seam. I hadn’t done this in quite a while, so I needed the directions. There was a minor disconnect between the directions on the block page and the directions on page 223-224 about how to stitch that Y-seam. However, no ripping was required, and I think the corners match pretty well.

For the next block, ripping was required. It is Review:

This is Not Review: As was mentioned elsewhere, it is a perfectly good block--even an attractive one. But I decided it was too similar to Birds in the Air (lower left in final picture) for me. And it was not what I had set out to make!

This is Review:

I chose Review because I needed a block with larger pieces to show the design in the fabric. It was an easy block to make wrong and an easy block to make right. It doesn’t matter how fabulous the diagrams are if a person doesn’t look at them. And I didn’t.

Here are all fourteen blocks I’ve finished:

I’ll make one more block. I’m leaning toward Eddystone Light, as suggested by Cathy. It has such a cool name. The first Eddystone Lighthouse began functioning in 1698. It is off the coast of England near Devon. I’ve tried several color schemes, but I haven’t found the right one yet.

The target size for this little quilt is 41 inches by 63 inches. I don’t want to piece the backing. I don’t know what color(s) I will use for sashing and borders, but perhaps this weekend another Crackpot and I can arrange for a fabric store session.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Few More Blocks

I’m continuing to work on my small quilt. I was going to say lap robe, but that sounds so old ladyish. Anyway, here are the next blocks, in the order I made them.

Goose Tracks (as opposed to Turkey Tracks or Duck Paddle):

Birds In The Air:

Free Trade:

Grandmother’s Favorite (although I have three favorites):

Big T (not Capital T):

Memory Lane:

And here are all but Memory Lane together:

The more discerning viewer will note that there is now a fourth light colored background fabric. It came from our favorite, locally owned fabric store. After a horrible block mishap that had the possibility of causing seizures in vulnerable individuals, it was clear that I needed at least one more quiet fabric. So I got some. You will note also that I have resorted to some fussy cutting, in particular with Grandmother’s Favorite and Big T. I have also strayed off the no smaller than 1/8 inch measurements with Grandmother’s Favorite.

Just a few technical details:
-I’m using my 1/4 inch with guide foot. This foot lets me run the fabric right along the guide for a perfect scant 1/4 inch seam. And it works spectacularly well ever since I asked the repair man to move the needle position slightly to the right so the needle goes exactly through the center of the hole (even though he said it wasn’t supposed to be there).
-I’m using a #11 quilting needle.
-I’ve only broken one needle. To use the 1/4 inch food with guide, the needle needs to be in the center position. When I turn the machine off, the needle defaults to the left position. I forgot that once.
-I’m using Gutermann polyester (gasp!) thread. It’s a medium tan.
-I’ve been quite determined to use a fabric scrap at the beginning and end of each batch of chain stitching pieces. Fons and Porter emphasize this, and it has worked well. I knew that, but I didn’t always do it.
-The only times I’ve pinned pieces together are when I sew the large sections of each block together. So far, not using many pins is working well.

This little project has shown again what a great book Marsha McCloskey’s Block Party is. The directions are clear and complete, and there are several diagrams for each block. Even info about which direction to press the seams is included. I was feeling a little rusty, and I haven’t made any major errors (well, except for the broken needle and the horrible block mishap which didn’t have anything to do with the book or the instructions).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Plan, Should There Happen To Be One,

is to make a new lap quilt. The old one is dated 1984, and it’s getting a little grubby.

This is the fabric I’m using:

Most of it is a collection of quarter yards purchased in a bundle at Schoolhouse Fabrics in Floyd, Virginia, in 2002. Yep. This is fabric in its prime.

Since I can’t decide on one block, er, am flexible in my choices, er, prefer to be spontaneous, er, like variety, er, am a Crackpot, er, don’t have a plan, it will be a sampler quilt.

I haven’t done any serious piecing in a while so I decided to go back to the old standby–Marsha McCloskey’s Block Party. This means that however many blocks get done will be nine-inch blocks. To make it easy to get started, I decided to group my fabric into sets of three, with varying colors and values. Then I looked for blocks that used just three colors. I eliminated all the blocks that called for measurements of 1/16 inch (indicated in the book as +) because my rulers don’t have that marking.

My first block was Ohio Star, and here it is:

The second block was Perpetual Motion, and here it is:

My third block is Weather Vane, and here it is:

So now you can see the three light pieces of “background” fabric I have. They’re not extremely light, and the value differences within this set of fabrics is somewhat limited. Because of that and because each fabric has either more than one color or a variety of values, the divisions between the pieces in each block don’t stand out. I like it that way. It’s mellow.

Now, what shall I make for the next one? Get out your Block Party book (I know you have one) and make some suggestions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Universal Sewing Machine Needle

A long time ago in a land far away, someone developed the universal needle. It was not really sharp like those old fashioned sharp needles. It was not really rounded like those formerly new-fangled ball point needles. The universal needle would sew anything. Anything at all. Woven fabric, knit fabric, stretch fabric. Anything.

And it did. Except that it didn't do quite as good a job as a sharp needle on finely or tightly woven fabric. And it didn't do quite as good a job as a ball point needle on fine knits.

Once I learned that sewing machine needles actually wear out by blamming themselves against the fabric at 100 miles per hour, I started to rethink my approach. I could change the needle before it broke. (What a shock! Sometimes back in the previous millennium, my needles lasted a long, long, long time before they broke. They probably lasted years, and I sewed nearly every day.) I found out I could hear the difference as the right needle went through the cloth. I started to get picky. And then JoAnn's started having periodic sales with 50% off the notions wall. It was downhill from there. I became a sewing machine needle snob.

The reason I wanted to use a universal needle for the project in the previous post was to make it easier to put the woven zipper in the knit fabric. Plus the only ball point needles I had were 9s. I needed a heavier needle with the Windbloc barrier between the two layers of fleece.

NOTE: If a universal needle works for you, go for it. They usually do a good job. As a point of information, I usually use quilting needles on my machine, unless there's a specific need for something else. I also use topstitching needles, embroidery needles, microtex needles, needles for metal thread, and twin needles. I have never used a wing needle or a leather needle. I'm not proud to be a needle snob, but I've sewn through my fingers enough that I won't apologize.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Reversible, Windbloc, Polar Fleece Jacket

I was freezing! Standing outside at the soccer game, with the wind blowing right through my Gore-Tex jacket and my Polar Fleece pullover. It was clear that I needed something more to keep me warm. A Windbloc Polar Fleece jacket would be just the thing, and if it were reversible, then it would (no doubt) be twice as effective.

I found some reversible, Windbloc, Polar Fleece at our locally-owned fabric store. And on sale, no less. So I bought it and a reversible zipper* to make the jacket.

This was one of those projects where the engineering is more interesting than the sewing. Sort of like conceptual art. Other than the pattern for the basic jacket (front, back and sleeves), there was no pattern and no instructions. I made it up myself. This is how the blue side looks.

And this is how the black side looks.

I wanted both sides of the jacket to be finished, so I could wear it either as a blue jacket or a black jacket. Since Polar Fleece doesn't fray, I decided to lap the seams and then trim off the excess. On the black side, you can see little bits of blue accents along the seams and vice versa for the blue side. I set in the sleeves as usual, using the black as the right side. Then I trimmed off the sleeve seam allowance close to the stitching, and topstitched the body of the jacket over the sleeves, from the black side. Then I trimmed off the excess jacket seam allowance close to the stitching. I faced the neck and the bottom hem and the sleeve hems, sewing the black side of the facing to the blue side of the jacket. Then I trimmed the seams, turned the facing to the black side along the seam line, topstitched it, and trimmed the facing close to the stitching. On the blue side at the hems and armscyes, all you see is the stitching and on the black side you see the facing with the little blue accent line. This is what the overlapped seams look like up close.

I wanted zipper pockets, too. I made secret zipper pockets with polyester lining material, and attached those to patch pockets. Now I have a patch pocket on the outside for gloves and a secret pocket inside the patch pocket for, well, secret things. I didn't want too much bulk, so I only put pockets on the left side of each front.

Making this jacket was easier because I got to use one of my newest toys--Gingher duck-billed applique scissors. I got them at the JoAnn's Black Friday sale--50% off plus another 10% off with coupon. Still not cheap, but I love them. They are sharp! I'm amazed at how dull all my other scissors must be, compared to the new ones.

*Reversible zipper--The slider has a pull that can flip over the top so you can pull it from either side.
I used both blue and black thread, changing the bobbin and the thread on the top so it would match what I was sewing. Most often I used one color in the top and the other color in the bobbin.
I am not crazy about universal needles, but I used one on this jacket. It worked well.
I lengthened my stitch to 3.5, instead of the 2.5 default on my machine.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In The Garden At Midnight - December 2010 BJP

Who knows what happens in the garden at midnight? I don't. But I can imagine. And I imagine that during the time of the longest nights of the year, some irrepressible flowers just have to show themselves, but only to the lucky few who are watching. And if it is too dark and too cold and too snowy for the flowers to come above ground, they remember what it was like to bloom during the bright, warm, sunny days, and they dream of blooming again. Perennials have strong spirits, and they use the dark, cold, snowy time to build strength and to look toward the future.

In December 2008, I did another dark, sparkly piece. You can see it below. I enjoyed working with these dark beads so much that I decided to do another one. I deliberately did not look at the older piece before starting this one, and now I find they look quite different from each other. This year's page above is darker than the earlier one below, and it's even darker than the photo shows. Perhaps I acquired some (ahem...) more dark beads. This year's page seems to have a simpler, more unified design. And of course, there are the larger flower and leaf beads on the new one.

Here is the December 2008 page:

Technical Details:

The foundation is Lacy's Stiff Stuff painted with Dye-na-Flow Azure Blue with a little black mixed in.

In addition to the larger leaves and gold flowers, there are three very cool 30 mm (1 3/8 inch) bugle beads. There are 5/0 triangles, rounds in 8/0, 11/0, and 15/0, some 10/0 rounded triangles, 11/0 pointy triangles, hexes, Charlottes, cubes, cylinder beads, fire-polished round beads, and some 3 mm bugles. A large majority of the beads are dark blue or black with an AB finish.

The backstitch dominated (again!) but I did use the stop stitch and the lazy stitch in a few places.

The piece is 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches.

I used both Nymo navy size B thread and C-Lon black size D thread.

What I Was Thinking:

I really enjoyed working with these dark beads again. After November's page, which seemed to take forever, this page went fast. I started after Christmas and finished it on New Year's Day. I didn't finish it in 2010, which bothered me somewhat. but I could have. I just couldn't manage to stay up till midnight to keep beading (and to look at the garden). As I was working on it on New Year's Eve (We know how to celebrate!), this page was my glamour. It was a perfect complement to my LLBean flannel-lined jeans, sneakers, and fleece top.

Issues That Came Up:

I did not enjoy using the C-lon size D thread. It really seemed to drag through the Stiff Stuff. I think I'll save it for fringe.

It really did bother me that I didn't finish by the end of the year. I know that makes no difference to anyone else, so I'll try to get over it.

Now on to BJP 2011! I'm ready to start!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Perfect Way to Start the New Year

is by wearing a pair of custom made socks, hand knit by my favorite knitter, She Who Shall Not Be Named. They were my Christmas present. They fit perfectly and are in my super most favorite colors. I love them!