Monday, November 6, 2017

FO: Dancing Pumpkins (+ Doily WIP and 1st FMQ Trial)

(Squeezing in as many mysterious abbreviations as possible in that title field... ;o))

First, I have way too many photos of the latest finished objects-- the "window quilts".  Here they are after quilting, but before washing.

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

I straight-line quilted them on my sewing machine.  This is the most densely I've ever quilted anything bigger than a pot-holder, I think.  It was sometimes a struggle to maneuver through the limited harp/throat space, even with such a relatively small piece.

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

The backing is just the same cream sheet I used for the carpenter's star "window quilt" I made before, and the binding is a solid golden yellow.

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Here they are after washing and drying.
First, the valance/runner.  (I don't think I got the whole thing in any single photo, but this is the gist of it...)

The first photo was taken with a flash; this is how the valance generally looks when the light inside is brighter than the light coming from the window.  The second has harsher lighting from above, which emphasizes the quilted texture.  What I didn't do was get photos of the light shining through the quilt, from the window.  (To be honest, I'm not sure I love the way these look with the light shining through them.  So many pieces means lots of seams.  I'll give it some time-- the rest of the month, at least-- but in future, these may be used as a small wall-hanging and table runner, instead of as window coverings.)

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Next up, the larger of the two, on the kitchen door.  You get a hint of the light shining through in most of these (all but the second one, which was taken with the flash), but it's not as extreme as it was earlier in the day.

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

I do like the "dancing pumpkins", and they were fun to make!

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

Pumpkin "Window Quilts"

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New topic!
I've been wanting to try the free motion quilting (FMQ) function on my sewing machine.  Over the weekend I finally did!

I made up a couple of small quilt sandwiches for the purpose.  They're just plain scrap sheet fabric on front and back, with scrap polyester batting.  I lowered the feed dogs, put on the quilting foot (a.k.a. darning foot), adjusted the upper tension (from a 4 to a 7, which seems to be about right on my machine), and gave it a whirl.  (All this was after first watching some videos on YouTube.)

...It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the people (even the hobbyists) who put up FMQ videos are usually somewhat experienced and therefore make it look a lot easier than it will seem to beginners.

I've read enough to know that there are as many tips and tricks and ideal set-ups as there are quilters.  Everyone is different-- and every sewing machine make/model is different, too.  Just about the only tip that seems to be universal is that practice is necessary to improve and gain the necessary muscle memory to FMQ smoothly.

In the photo below, you can clearly see a difference between my first try and my last.

FMQ Trial #1

My curves still lack smoothness, and sometimes I feel like the fabric is moving in a "jerky" way, which leads to elongated stitches in some spots and short, dense stitching in others.  Still, it's an improvement over my first few lines of stitches.

I've read almost too many tips and tricks-- which can be overwhelming and confusing-- but some are easier (and cheaper) to implement than others, so I'll start with those.  (I've already decided that taping wax paper to the sewing machine was not particularly helpful for me, for instance.)  I think the key is going to be practicing.  A little every day would be ideal.

FMQ Trial #1

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Progress is slow on "Marion"-- simply because I haven't been crocheting as often or long as I sometimes do-- but when I'm working on it, I'm enjoying it.  The texture is amazing and the design elegant.  While it does require some attention and concentration (in spots), so far it hasn't been as complicated or difficult to crochet as it may appear.  (Of course, up-coming rounds may make me eat those words!)

"Marion" Doily WIP

I think it's going to be a beauty.  Definitely a pattern I can imagine making multiple times, because it holds your interest but is still enjoyable to crochet, with a lovely final product.

(Oh, and the Baroque thread continues to be nice, too.  No more knots since that first one.  It's a quality thread, but I still would prefer Cébélia for future purchases-- unless I came across an unbelievable sale on Baroque.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

We've Got a Runner! (And a new WIP.)

As promised, I'm back with some photos of the finished and blocked crochet table runner.  The light could've been better (or I could've bothered to use the tripod), but they'll do.

Of course, now that I look at these photos, all I can see is the incongruity of my blocking-- the wobbling lines-- but, again, it will do.  I do think it looks nice on the table, especially when I'm not staring directly at it, looking for flaws.  ;o)

Crochet Table Runner

The pattern was designed by Kazuko Hayashi and was published in a Japanese book (Beautiful Pineapple Crochet Lace).  Though there are some instructions in Japanese only, I think the chart was clear enough to follow without that extra information.  (The book appears to be out of print...)

Crochet Table Runner

Since I wasn't sure about the required yardage and wanted to be sure I'd have enough thread, I used one of those huge "jumbo" balls of Aunt Lydia's Classic Crochet in the "Natural" color (ecru/cream).  I have no idea how much thread it took, but I have tons left over for another project (or three).

Crochet Table Runner

Incidentally, the pattern was originally intended to be crocheted with size 40 thread, I believe.  This is size 10, so it came out pretty big.  That's probably for the best.  If I'd used smaller thread, it might not have fit the table so well.  Personally, I like that it hangs over the sides like this.

Crochet Table Runner

...Not sure what else there is to say that hasn't already been said in previous posts...

I suppose I could reiterate that while it was not a particularly difficult pattern-- no terribly advanced stitches or unusual stitch placement-- this felt like a loooong project, and I can't imagine ever wanting to make it again.  I think the fact that it's broken into pieces (three long strips that must be joined and edged) is largely to blame for this "marathon effect".  Also, working back and forth in rows is less enjoyable for me than working in the round, it seems.

Crochet Table Runner

...But I'm glad to have the runner, and I do think it's a lovely design, even with the minor flaws in my own personal finished object (wobbly blocking and ever-so-slightly pokey-outy pinapples).

Crochet Table Runner

(Phew.  I am so glad to be done with it, though!  Never again!)

Crochet Table Runner

It's funny how you sometimes get flashes of what you were doing/thinking/watching when you worked on a project, when you look at it again.  With this one, I'm remembering watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries while I worked on the central strip/panel.

Crochet Table Runner

Here it is a few more times, without any "stuff" on top...

Crochet Table Runner

Crochet Table Runner

Crochet Table Runner


- - - - - -

With the runner (oh-so-blessedly) finished, I was free to start a new thread project.

The pattern is "Marion", by Grace Fearon.  It's an oval(ish) doily that is positively loaded with texture.

The thread is DMC's Baroque (size 10).  I've had it in my stash for years, but this is the first time I'm using this brand.  Based on my experience so far, I'd say it's a pretty nice thread (though I have found a knot in my skein already), but I think I prefer Cébélia (which is another line of crochet thread from DMC).  Plus, Cébélia comes in a range of (26?) colors, whereas Baroque is currently only available in two-- "White" and "Ecru". It's a little boring to go from "Natural" in my last thread project to "Ecru" for this one-- but hey, I love creamy neutrals, so it's not really a problem.

"Marion"

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The dancing pumpkin "window quilts" are pin-basted!

Dancing Pumpkins

They were small enough that I was able to do the basting on the table instead of on the floor.

I wish I could find a way to avoid kneeling, crouching, and crawling while basting larger quilting projects!  I know some people use boards (2x4s or smaller?)...  Maybe I should investigate that method before tackling my next person-sized quilt.  Then there's the option of spray basting, but that sounds like it might be messy (and it's one more product to have to buy).

Dancing Pumpkins

Machine quilting on the "valance" is already underway!  I'm staying with straight-line quilting, for this project, but I'm putting the lines closer together than I did for my first set of "window quilts".

Dancing Pumpkins

Photos will follow when they're finished, but there's still a way to go before then!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Crochet and Crumbs

There's something new on the blocking mat!  It's a thread crochet table runner that I started back in April, so it's been a while in coming-- though to be fair, I haven't worked on it non-stop since then.  (It's only felt that way, sometimes!)

My blocking job's not perfect, but it'll do.

Lace Crochet Table Runner

It's a pretty design, and I'm happy with my results, but I wouldn't want to make it again.  All that back and forth of crocheting rows (rather than rounds, which I prefer)!  The separate strips that require multiple "pep talks" to get started and finished!  The joining of the different elements!  The edging! 

Lace Crochet Table Runner

This was definitely a "product project" rather than a "process project"-- meaning that I kept crocheting more because I wanted the finished product than because I particularly enjoyed the process of crocheting it.

Lace Crochet Table Runner

Once it's dry, I'll try to get some good photos without the blocking mat and all the pins, but even these snapshots give a decent idea of how it turned out.

Lace Crochet Table Runner

The next thread crochet project is already on the hook!  The pattern is named "Marion"-- one of Grace Fearon's oval doilies.  It looks so elaborate, with lots of texture.  Though I'm looking forward to trying more of the variegated Alize Miss Batik, I decided to keep the thread simple for this doily, to put all the focus on the texture.  I've just started, but the pattern's fun so far.

- - - - - - -

I wanted some relaxing, carefree piecing, recently, so I took out my box of crumbs and some scrappy strings, as well as the partially-completed crumb blocks I was working on when I put it away, last time. 

There's something very soothing and therapeutic about sewing small scraps of fabric together any-which-way.  It's similar to the feeling you get when you're "in the groove" on a mindless crochet or knitting project-- like scrappy granny squares, for instance.

Crumb Quilting in Progress

No rules.  No fuss.  No mistakes.  Just little pieces of fabric and the sewing machine.  Maybe some music or a cozy TV program playing in the background.

Crumb Quilting in Progress

Crumbs join with other crumbs and strips to become... morsels?... and eventually full-sized blocks.

Crumb Quilting in Progress

I'm not sure how big a crumb(ish) quilt I'll be making, but I know there's a long way to go before it will be a finished quilt top.  That's good; I think I like the piecing best, anyway.

Crumb Quilting in Progress

The crumbs ought to hop back into storage, soon, because the pumpkin window dressings are very close to being turned into quilt sandwiches-- which may be precisely why I'm procrastinating with crumbs in the first place...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pump Up the Pumpkins! Dance! Dance!

I don't think I included this exact view of the room in my recent "room rearrangement" post.  I love that I can see out the window from behind the sewing machine.  (That particular part of the garden could use some work, though.  Maybe I'll plant some colorful annuals out there next year so there's more to see.)

Sewing Table

The natural light helps, but it's rarely enough on its own.  Any time I'm going to sew, I also switch on the ceiling light and a nearby lamp.  This happens to be a sunlight (full spectrum) lamp, which is great for showing colors accurately.  It's actually probably overkill for "just" lighting up my sewing station, but I have it and might as well use it-- and it is very bright.

- - - - - - -

I'm still working on the current quilting project-- new, seasonal window dressings for the kitchen.  There are a lot of pieces, so it's taking a while.

Piecing Pumpkin Stems

Here are all the remaining "block kits" waiting to be paired with their string-pieced pumpkins:

Pumpkin Block "Kits"

And here's the design wall with the pumpkin blocks I've finished so far...

Pumpkin Blocks

This project is based on/inspired by "Punkin' Patch" by Bonnie Hunter.

(Full disclosure: Because I knew I would be essentially redrafting the block to get it to the right size-- and wouldn't be using the borders-- I just reverse engineered from photos... So my pumpkins may not be exactly the same proportions as you'd get from following the pattern-- and they definitely aren't the same size.)

Pumpkin Wall-Hanging Quilt

I don't love adding the little triangles (stitch-and-flip squares) around the pumpkins, but they're a necessary evil.

(I do love the dancing lines of pumpkins, though! 💚 💚 💚)

Luna offers emotional support through the stitch-and-flips.

Luna

Ok, more like "Luna is so sensitive that if I so much as sigh in frustration, she looks worried and creeps from the room with down-tucked ears and tail".

Luna

I'm not allowed to express any negative emotion at all, according to Luna.

I don't refer to our dogs as "fur babies", but the saying that comes to mind is, "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!".  Luna takes this to the extreme.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Giving It a Spin

This weekend, I gave the new layout a spin.

I'm sewing components for my latest quilting project-- components that are string-pieced on a paper foundation.

String-Piecing

It's going well-- I'm having fun-- and I unequivocally love having the iron right by my sewing station for quick pressing.  It makes the whole process so much faster and easier!  No more repeatedly getting up and down for no good reason!  I can't imagine going back to the old way after this.  Nope; I'm determined to have an iron within reaching distance of my sewing machine, from now on.  

String-Piecing

Here's a peek at some of the string-pieced components, along with a handful of the strings.  Those papers under the magnetic pin-"cushion"/dish are my foundation papers, cut from an old phone book. I'm still new to paper foundations, but I think they're working pretty well.

String-Piecing

Here's another view of the sewing corner.  There's the iron, within easy reach.  I also had my tablet set up beside the sewing machine so I could watch/listen to quilting podcasts as I sewed.  With no TV or computer in the room, the tablet provides entertainment (especially when there's nothing good on local radio).

String-Piecing

Seeing that unfinished quilt top on the back of my chair is a reminder that there are other projects that also need attention-- but this string-pieced project is seasonal, so that's my top sewing priority.

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I've also started a small knitting project just for the fun of it.  (I have UFOs that I feel guilty about, but I "needed" something new-- preferably new and quick.)  It's a cable swatch.  I'm planning to knit a collection of cable swatches to frame and hang in my craft room as decorations.  There are a lot of cable patterns I'd like to try, and with decorative swatches, I can test out more of them without making the commitment (in time and yarn) that comes with a full-fledged project.  (Even so, I may run out of frames and craft-room wall-space, at some point.)

Knitting Cables

I'm a bit out of practice with knitting (not that I've ever been more than an low-level "intermediate" knitter), but setting aside mistakes and flaws, it's always amazing to watch cables grow.  They look so complicated!  I feel like a "real knitter" when I'm making cables.  The same thing goes for lace and brioche.  A crafter's rush-- a knitter's high! ;o)