November 28, 2011

All your quilt are belong to us!

 Over the past several days, I've been working on the quilt.   I marked the Double Irish Chain blocks in two stages, so I wouldn't get too confused with the patterns.  Quilting on the treadle sewing machine went fairly quickly, but it was a whole new use for those shoulder and arm muscles, so I ended up having to take breaks.  Every time I wasn't working on the quilt, and one time when I was, helper kitty was "helping".  Each of these photos was taken at a different time and there are more!  He really seems to like that quilt. He is the ultimate project manager!

November 26, 2011

The Great Machine Quilting Adventure (and grey yarn update)

We pickup this story from when  the Double Irish Chain quilt was ready to baste together.  I had purchased an obscenely expensive tin of spray basting adhesive.   I lined the diningroom in old newspapers in order to protect the furniture and flooring.   I spent a couple of days trying to research the ventilation requirements and possible health issues with the spray.   I didn't find anything screaming out at me.  Finally, I got up the guts to spread out the bamboo batting, spray it and apply the quilt backing.   I was totally amazed.  There was no obvious odor, virtually no excessive spraying and the fabric was easy to reposition on the batting and still held tight when patted back down.  I flipped the batting, sprayed and put the quilt top on.  To my horror.. no really, exasperation, there were a couple of wonky bits on the border which I couldn't smooth out for anything.  I let it sit for a day or two while I tried to figure out a suitable solution.  In the end, there was only one.  I peeled the quilt top off, setting the batting carefully aside as I'd heard that the sprayed bits can stick to themselves quite nicely.   I ripped that quilt top apart, resewed a few blocks, reassembled the top, squared it up properly, remeasured the borders, trimmed them up and sewed them back on.

   In all, it only took a good part of a day to get back to basting.   When I plunked that quilt top on the batting, the original light spray of adhesive still held!   I was impressed, but I wanted to be certain, so I peeled back various corners and gave the batting the lightest of quick sprays anyway.  That poor quilt sat on the dining room table for several more days while I tried to figure out what to do with quilting and fiddled with the treadles tension, which seemed to not want to be happy doing free-motion work on my samples.   In the end, although I did get the tension worked out, I decided to do the centre part in diagonal straight machine quilting.

I was ready to mark it and go.  Then last night, as I wandered past the quilt, the light hit it in a certain way and I knew exactly how to quilt it.. not plain straight line diagonals, but some of them will be interlaced and some not.    This morning I started marking the quilt out and this afternoon, I started quilting.    I need to reconfigure the work space to give the quilt a little more support but otherwise the treadle is working beautifully for the quilting.  There are a few wobbly bits of quilting here and there but it's getting better and I'm sure by the time I've finished machine quilting the next quilt, I'll be loads better.   I'm not sure I like the blue quilting thread on the beige blocks, but I think I'd dislike a lighter thread on the blue blocks more, so not much to do about that.   

Grey wool update -   Yep, the 1 lb of grey roving is spun, plied and waiting for a project.  I've been spinning stashed roving lately, to get some of it used up.   I think I'm down to almost needing more roving, so mission accomplished there.  However, now I have an interesting assortment of skeins to use up!   If I'd thought ahead for this grey, I might have kept the grey as singles.  Half way through the last bobbin, I realized I had a nice amount of similar grist singles stashed away, which may very well have worked as weft with the grey as warp.  None the less, it is spun and worked up quite nicely.   Next time, I'll have to remind myself to actually write down the yardage after I count it though.  Not sure why I bothered to work it out, if I wasn't going to write it down.. sigh..

November 21, 2011

Some spinning , knitting and a trip to Kingston

Last week I vistited my friend Suzi, who is also a spinner.   I took my Mazurka spinning wheel and we sat around for a fun few hours, spinning and eating warm cinnamon buns, just pulled from the oven.   They were made with whole wheat flour, so we deemed them healthy for the morning!  I dug up a bit of roving that I dyed last year to play with.   It's spinning up beautifully and the deep blue is quite entrancing.   Of course I've put the rest of the roving away properly and can't find it for anything right now.  Most frustrating because obviously, there is someplace I've  hidden miles of gorgeous blue dyed roving!

I finished the mittens on Sunday.  I imagine these will be sturdy and strong.  I don't find them scratchy or harsh, but they certainly don't feel soft or delicate.  The Clun Forest is a down breed, known for it's strong, springy fibre.  I'm pretty sure these mitts would be able to take some machine washing without felting.  They're that sturdy.

windfarm in the fading light
We went to Kingston for the weekend.   We headed out first thing Friday morning and got to the city in time to do a bit of a driving tour and a quick walk by the lake.  The wind was pretty ferocious by the shoreline and it was cold.  We didn't last very long, but it was so nice to be out of the truck and walking.   There is a huge wind farm across the bay, but the light was fading and since my mittens were still not quite finished, my hands were too cold to be fiddling around with the camera for too long.
Murney Martello Tower

The sun over the lake was gorgeous though.  Actually the city of Kingston is particularly beautiful, with old stone houses everywhere, a restored Fort Henry, Fort Fredrick and Murney Martello Tower.  Unfortunately, it was the off season and they were all closed or we may have lingered on Sunday.  I was promised however, a trip to the area again in the spring or summer, in order to indulge in historical sight seeing!

I did manage to play around with a few different settings to try to capture the sunset.   There have been few enough sunsets at home of late.  The heavy, dark grey skies, just haven't been photo worthy back home.   These two were my favourites.

November 13, 2011

Weekend achievements

I almost ripped out that Clun Forest Mitten.  It's not nearly as soft as my usual mitten yarn is.   However, I realized that I wanted these to use in the barn.   The Clun Forest yarn will be hard wearing and durable.  I may dye them because white is really not a barn colour!  If I'm feeling energetic, I may knit up a second pair of mitts for myself, just for "pretty". Then I can wear the pretty mittens when I go to town.

I also finished up the quilt top.   It's just shy of a twin size, which should be a good size to practice machine quilting with and still be useful.   Lots of resources recommend not using a large quilt to learn machine quilting.   I'm not sure if using the treadle to quilt with, will change the learning curve at all.  Technology is sometimes quite cool and there is now a quilt basting spray: a temporary, water soluble adhesive which glues the 3 layers together so that no pins or basting stitches are needed.   While in the past, I'd have been dead set against this sort of short cut, I've purchased a tin of the spray because I just can't figure out where I'd actually be able to stretch out the quilt in order to hand baste.   I used to either tape the backing to the floor, then layer and baste or just set up a huge quilt frame, stitching the backing down first and then layering and basting.  I no longer have the quilt frame and taping to the floor just no longer seems feasible with our small rooms and carpeting.  Admittedly, crawling around on the floor to baste a quilt no longer really sounds like fun, so I'm giving the basting spray a shot.

Yep, more grey fibre spinning.  Grey like today's sky.  I think I need to spin something sunny, just as an interlude.

November 09, 2011

Knitting and piecing and knitting and sewing and.........

 The mittens are done!  The fleece was a variety of fawn colours from cream to the almost brown, with hints of grey.   Very pretty and the mitts knitted up easily.  The colour varigation is quite pronounced, although not as much as in the photo.    The recipient didn't mind.   It really didn't take that long to knit either.   The ribbing felt like it took the longest time to knit, although I doubt it really did. I loved knitting with that particular skein because it just worked so well.  It was soft, well spun, wasn't splitty or anything else hard to work with.   It just felt right.

Then I started on these.  Yes, I swatched.. I knit my first ribbing based on the swatch and it was too large.   I took away just a couple of stitches and now it's too small.  Obviously I changed my tension in there a couple of times.   I'm going to rip this out and start again, being more careful of my tension or adding a few stitches and keeping the tension at a bit of a tighter gauge.  As well, it's the Clun Forest fleece which I spun with a long draw.  It's very springy. I've noticed when I'm knitting it that it takes much more tension that most of the yarns I use.  I'll have to take that into consideration as well. 

Finally I realized that if I didn't get off my duff, iron the quilt fabrics, start cutting and sewing, I'd not have the Xmas pressie quilt finished in time.   I still may not as I've no idea how long it will take to machine quilt it when I've finished piecing it.   I had to run out and purchase a new quilting ruler, suitable for rotary cutting.  My old one is 15 or so years old and not only was too narrow but getting rather weary and worn.  I was astounded by the cost...$45 for one 8.5 in x 24 in ruler!   Luckily, it was on sale for 1/2 price..   I'm using one of the speed cutting techniques, cutting long strips,sewing them together in the required order, slicing off pieces and stitching them together to make the correct block.   It's saving a lot of time.   I decided upon a Double Irish Chain, which interestingly, one source commented that it's called an American Chain in Ireland.  I wonder if that's true? 

I actually wanted to use white instead of the beige, but the white I had was too stark.  While I think this beige is too pinky, it looks okay.   I'm piecing it on the treadle.  I know it would be faster going on one of the electric machines, but I'm finding the treadling very relaxing and still getting a kick out of powering the machine myself and not running up the electric bill.

More spinning -  More grey -  Looks exactly like this on the wheel.   While I've loved the end result, a whole pound is a lot of wool to spin.  We've had a lot of grey days and I'm just not appreciating the grey wool right now.

November 05, 2011

A week dedicated to warm hands and nice surpises

This week, the rural mail delivery folks, actually came into the drive way to deliver a package.   I'm not sure why I wasn't expecting it, because I knew it was on it's way.   However, it was a lovely surprise to receive this beautiful, handmade, Walnut cone thread stand in the mail.  It will look so nice beside the 15-30 treadle, however I know it will also get used by Lady Pfaff, my electric embroiderer.    The skilled turner offered it as a prize for a quiz on the TreadleOn  email group. Treadle On is a an amazing community of people who use people powered, both treadles and handcranked sewing machines.  They trouble shoot, diagnose, give repair information, identification information, where to find parts and support others who use treadle machines.   It's quite amazing really, to have a group which so easily shares and gives freely, their knowledge and information.

I did some more spinning and then realized that if I didn't start on mittens, friends and family would have cold hands.   First off was a pair of fingerless mitts from the Jessie's fleece .  My friend had donated the fleece and asked for a pair of fingerless mitts in return.   I wasn't sure how they'd turn out because there are a lot of inconsistencies in the yarn.   It was a bit on the hard to spin side.   It took a while to figure out the right gauge because although I did swatch, that information didn't actually prove useful when  I started knitting.  In the end, it was a bit of trial end error. I ripped back twice, trying new needles each time until I found a formula that worked.  They were supposed to be fancy with cables, but they didn't look right.  That was another start.   When I wet finished them, they took on a lovely halo effect, which was very unexpected.  Pretty though :)

Next on the list was mitts for the hubby.   While I've bunches of yarn waiting for a project, most are in amounts large enough for something more than mitts.   The Clun Forest would have been perfect, but it was white and not really a man mitten colour.  I know he's going to be using the snow blower, carrying in wood and doing other chose in them.   I found this rather nicely spun single skein of Shetland, which is working perfectly.  

Finally, I popped out to the fabric store and the sewing machine shop and picked up a few things, including a dozen new bobbins for the treadle, a quarter inch foot for the treadle and these fabrics.    The project should have been started yesterday but I managed to drag my feet about pressing  when I had the time.   I haven't pieced a quilt in a good few years.   I'd started making a comforter for each of my kids, which half-way through the project, changed to making them quilts instead.  So some have quilts and the others wore their comforters out as children.  Now I think it's time to start finishing that project, especially since I have the perfect machines to do the quilting with.

Finally, remember those pretty yellow berries.   I was walking by to collect eggs as a couple of the girls lay just under those particular vines and this is what I saw.  I think they are gorgeous.   I ran in to grab the camera.   It's a good thing too, because the next day, I saw one of the chooks balancing on the lattice, eating those little red berries.