Sunday, 4 December 2016

Getting Ready for Christmas

I'm not sure how long I've been working on this Christmas tree skirt - two or three years or more - but it's finally finished.

I used regular 2-1/4" strips for most of the binding, but for the centre I tried using a bias strip cut about 1-1/4" as I didn't intend to double it. I just pressed in 1/4" on each side and then pressed it in half, and made it long enough to have ties. However, that narrow of a width was not working very well, so I ended up cutting some more bias strips (had to cut three to make the length I wanted as I had little fabric left to cut bias strips from) that were 2-1/4" wide and used it doubled. That worked much better, but I still ended up cutting the circle a little larger as it was just too challenging trying to get the binding on such a small circle. I ended up making 3 sets of ties from the binding fabric. One was just the extension of the binding around the inner circle and the other two I made from double folded and pressed fabric and these were placed midway down the back opening and one at the outside edge of the opening. And here it is under the tree. The cats, of course, have already tested it.

 And with decorations on the tree.

Here's a picture of the full tree.

I'm not perfectly happy with the decorations. I wanted more bead garlands and some ribbon rather than the tinsel garlands. I had some ribbon, but not enough and I couldn't find any more anywhere in town. I found some purple bead garlands, but they were rather dear and wouldn't match the ones I already had.
The tree in the foreground is a white and silver fibre optic tree. I wanted to decorate the little tree in the background with blue, but could not find the right blue decorations. You can see it's getting a little yellowed with age. Maybe I should decorate it with gold, which will look good with the yellow. 😄
In the above picture, you'll notice that I used my Christmas Star mini quilt as a table topper on the coffee table. 

Meanwhile, I got an Amazon order in the mail: some crafters' gloves to support my hands when I'm crocheting, knitting or quilting; a SideWinder bobbin winder, which I'm not entirely happy with, and a couple of sewing machine needle pads.These are for storing your needles that are not in use, so you can easily keep track of what they are. I bought one for myself and one for a stocking present for my daughter. These are going to make keeping my needles organized so much better. As for why I'm not happy with the SideWinder, it's quite cheaply made and therefore I'm afraid it might break quite easily. I also found that if I pushed the bobbin all the way down on the pin, the bobbin wound lopsided. I was able to get it to wind more evenly by not pushing it all the way down. I also can't see how it's going to save me any time or effort, unless I'm using different thread in the bobbin than the top thread. Otherwise I still have to unthread the machine in order to wind bobbins. That was a purchase I didn't think through very well. But I think it's more trouble than it's worth to send it back. So I'm keeping it.
I'm also following the Stuff Your Stocking event at both Sew Sisters and Lori's Country Cottage. I had to pay $10 to register for the one at Sew Sisters, but at Lori's anyone who subscribes to their emails can take part. I was really excited with the first email from Sew Sisters. It was fat quarter bundles for really good prices, averaging $2.00 to $2.50 per fat quarter. You were only allowed to buy one of each bundle and I was really tempted to do so. But I figured other deals were coming in the following days, so I only bought two bundles. When the next couple of days' deals came out, however, I wish I had bought more of the fat quarters as some of the deals weren't all that great, but I felt that I needed to buy more in order to justify spending the $10 to register. I ordered some colour catchers, sewing machine needles, and 1.5 metres of Kona cotton in white. Today's deals were more interesting to me - I ordered a quilting ruler rack and some Squissors. We'll see what tomorrow brings. So far I really haven't been very interested in the deals that Lori's is offering. They've been bigger ticket items and I haven't felt that the discount has been significant enough to justify me making a purchase I hadn't planned on. If it was something I had already been hoping to buy, like a 9-degree ruler, then I might be more tempted.
And more on the home front: I think I mentioned before that in my daughter's aborted attempt to paint the front of my house, she took down my house numbers and I haven't seen them since. After asking her for them more than once (I assume she lost them), I bought some new ones. Tonight, being the last day of reasonable outside temperatures, I decided I'd better get them up or it would likely have to wait for spring. As I was messing around with Christmas trees and shopping for more decorations for a good part of the day, I didn't get around to it until after the sun had already set and the temperature had started to drop. Plus the wind had picked up and snow had started to fall. I think it was about -7⁰C with a wind chill factor of -17. Nasty! I did remember to plug my block heater in when I got home as the temperature is supposed to plunge overnight. Not something I'm looking forward to. I could tolerate winter better if we didn't get such extreme temperatures, especially with the wind chill. Well, at least my house numbers are up now. However, I still haven't put the front railing back up yet (my daughter also took that down and disappeared with the screws), but since I seldom use the front door, that can wait until spring.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Quilting with Metallic Thread

When I took my machine quilting course, as part of the course I tried various threads and vaious needles for quilting. In the picture below of one of my practice pieses, you can see that I was able to quilt my name and other doodlings in purple metallic thread. 
I intended to use the same thread to quilt my purple Christmas tree skirt. And since I had been successful in the sample above, I didn't anticipate any problems. I was wrong. The thread broke repeatedly. I tried different needles, adjusted the tension, reduced the speed on my sewing machine and changed the bobbin thread to polyester (I had been using Aurifil cotton 50 weight). I even tried sewing with two threads; one metallic and one cotton. That was messy. Nothing worked continuously. As a last resort, I wound the metallic thread onto the bobbin and used polyester thread on the top and stitched with the quilt facedown. Of course, this necessitated unpinning all of my pin-basting and moving the pins to the back side of the quilt. But I was finally successful. 
I have numerous spools of purple thread, in both cotton and polyester, so I could have easily switched to a non-metallic. But I had the metallic purple and I wanted to use it. It adds a little bling to the tree skirt. Next time, I'll just know from the start to use the metallic in the bobbin. However, I'm still puzzled as to why I was able to use it successfully previously. <shrug>
Up next: binding. Next problem: how to bind that tiny little circle in the middle of the tree skirt...

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Bring on the Snow!

Actually, that title probably sounds a little more enthusiastic than I am. I could live without winter, gladly. But I just got brand new winter tires installed on my truck. From our early snowfall in October, I already have a small shovel, an old pair of Sorels and an extra toque and mitts in the truck, so I'm about as ready for winter as I'm going to be. Except that I could use a few more bags of kitty litter or sand in the back. I just wish this great country of Canada had been founded somewhere warm. But then I suppose we might not have developed the great character we have. 😊
I didn't do any crafting or blogging last night. Instead I did shopping and handyman work. I shopped at Walmart and Canadian Tire for a few things. Back when my daughter made her aborted attempt to paint the front of my house, she removed my house numbers and the hand rail for my front steps. I haven't seen the house numbers or the screws for attaching the handrail since. Last time I asked her for them (which was not the first time), she replied, "Oh I thought I gave them back to you." In other words, she doesn't know where they are either. So I decided that I'd better buy some new ones. Haven't put them up yet. It's rather cold out there, and the sun sets so early that it's already getting dark by the time I get home. Kind of hard to feel motivated...
While I was at Walmart, I say the wall organizers for brooms and mops. I finally decided it was time to spend the money and the time and get something done about all of my brooms, mops, etc. that kept falling over and getting in the way. 
So that's what I spent last evening doing. Feels so good to have all of this stuff up out of the way. This is in my laundry room. Next spring, hopefully, I will get one put up in my garden shed as well, for all of my garden tools. 
One of the things I wrote in my gratitude book last night that I am thankful for is "power drills and the ability to use them." There was a time in my life when the thought of using power tools was rather scary to me. They can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. But as a single homeowner, I had to get over that and have since used a circular saw and a chain saw in addition to my two drills. I'm really thankful that I don't have to wait around for someone to do these things for me. 
I haven't really done much crafting this evening either. Trying to prep the batting and backing for the Christmas tree skirt, but feeling rather unmotivated. I think it's the lack of sunshine. Alberta is normally a sunny province, but I won't be surprised if we set some kind of record for sunless days this year.  But I was able to get this quilt hung, finally.
It got kind of bunched up and wrinkled while waiting to be hung on the wall. If it doesn't straighten out from hanging, I might have to take it down and iron it. I don't really want to do that, though. This fabric has that shiny, plastic-y coating that stinks when you iron it and I'm sure the fumes are not healthy for me to be inhaling. I should have put a third tab on this quilt for hanging. Without that clothespin, it would be sagging in the middle. When I've got nothing better to do, I might take it down and add another tab. I think I might use leftover fabric from this quilt to redo the cushion in this chair as well. 
As I was considering my projects, I realized I haven't shared my dishcloths. I've been wanting to do something as welcome gifts for new people that have moved into my neighbourhood. I decided to give each a crocheted or knitted dishcloth and a quilted hot pot holder. I had a big ball of yellow handicrafter cotton, so decided to make these sunshine dishcloths.
The pattern came from this book: 

I chose not to add the sunglasses or the smile. The pattern has the sun's rays get gradually smaller. I decided to make them all one size, and therefore have fewer of them. I like how they turned out. 
I originally bought the above pattern book because I liked the maple leaf dishcloth and was hoping to make one as a Christmas gift for each of my colleagues at work. 
However, there are a couple of the nurses that already give hand-made dishcloths for Christmas gifts. And I decided it's a little too labour-intensive for the number I would have to make. Especially when I've got so many other projects to get caught up on. 
I then decided to see if I could make a dishcloth on a knitting loom and bought this ebook from Leisure Arts:
I think the patterns look great. There's a good variety of different dishcloths to make, which I'm pleased with. I don't like making the same boring old dishcloth with just straight knitting over and over. However, I am not happy with the loom-knitting instructions and, while there are videos you can access online on Leisure Arts, they didn't really answer the questions I was asking. I hoped to be able to use a long loom, but usually you cross the yarn back and forth on a long loom. That wouldn't have worked for these patterns. You would have to work the stitches on each peg around the loom, not across it. I found the pegs too close together for this type of knitting and changed to a round loom, where it worked better. But I felt that the instructions to work a couple of rows with scrap yarn were rather ridiculuous. Once you were finished to the other end, you would then remove the scrap yarn (which was a lot of work) and put the stitches back on the pegs and finish it off. I'm not sure why the author found this necessary and why she didn't just work the pattern with the project yarn and then finish the edge with crochet... I'm no expert at loom-knitting, but this seemed like just a waste of valuable time. Loom knitting with a worsted weight (4) yarn also makes quite a loose-weave project and the instructions say to just wash it and it will tighten up. Really, I don't want to have to prewash every dishcloth I make. Fortunately, however, this book includes instructions for how to do each dishcloth with regular knitting or the knook. Since I do like the variety of patterns in this book, I will likely try some with knitting needles. I have yet to try a knook. That might be in my future. Here's the one dishcloth I made so far, already prewashed. 
Sorry, it's hard to see the pattern in this picture, but I'm not very good at keeping my place in a knitting pattern anyway. So, it's far from perfect. 😏 Like the orange maple leaf above, this was made from Cotton Rich yarn. It's not a great quality yarn - I bought it in the dollar store. It's rather inconsistent. The orange wasn't too bad, but the blue was rather horrible. There were several loose ends that I had to work into the project. And the dye was uneven. It's also not as heavy as Bernat Handicrafter and you can certainly tell the difference in quality when you compare the sunshine dishcloths, made of Handicrafter, with the other two made of Cotton Rich. 
Now I still need to make the hot pot holders. And it's well past my bedtime, so that's all for tonight. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Christmas Movies and Crochet

Watched another Christmas movie last night. I rarely sit idle when I'm watching television. I generally have a crochet hook or knitting needles in my hands. I've been working on a ruana for my daughter. It's the Around-Town Ruana, a free pattern from Red Heart. It's worked in three different yarns and you don't cut them when you get to the end of a row and switch to the next colour. You just leave it hanging and pick it up again the next time you get to the end of that row. That's why you can see all of the yarn stretched across the picture. 
I think I'm on row 42 and there are 73 on each half. It's a really easy project to pick up as it's just single crochets and chains. I don't have a picture of my ruana. I made the Savvy Ruana for myself, but I still have to finish the "fur" collar.
Another project that's easy to pick up and work on is my temperature change afghan. I call mine Spiralling Temperatures.
It's straight double crochet. The only complicated thing is remembering when to increase to keep the circle flat. I'm way behind, not yet finished August, partly due to the fact that I was in Ontario for two weeks twice this year and this project doesn't travel well. I have 11 (7 oz) balls of yarn and one 16 oz ball. Of course, that weight was at the beginning of the year, but there's still plenty of yarn left. I keep it in a tote whose top I drilled holes in to keep the yarn organized.
Can you imagine trying to fit that into your luggage? Do you think I could convince the airline that it's a medical device since I crochet for "therapy?" 😆 Here's my colour card.
I'm hoping to never have to use black. That's why you won't see it in the bin above. Plus the fact that I couldn't fit any more yarn in there. I'm using the daily maximum temperature and fortunately, I haven't had to use much purple either. (Even though it's my favourite colour, I'd rather not have those temperatures). However, we don't know what this winter will bring. I debated on whether to use only the colours from where I live or use the temperatures for where I was vacationing for that section of yarn. Initially, I was just going to go with the temperatures at home, but then I decided to use the temperatures from where I was visiting. That way it would be an afghan of my year and not my town's. 
After work today, I picked up a new push brooom. I have a corner lot with sidewalk on two sides of my property, plus a double wide driveway, the deck and the sidewalk between the deck and the garage. Even with a push brooom, that was a lot of work. I should have used the leaf blower. It would have done a better and quicker job. But at least I had some exercise. When I came in, I finished the top for my tree skirt. 
After all that exercise sweeping the snow, I don't have the energy to sort out the backing and batting for this project and then pin-baste it. That will have to wait for another evening. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Snow Overnight

Got snow yesterday and overnight, but it didn't amount to much. However, I didn't get out the snowblower or even a broom. I was determined to get Damian's bed and some other stuff of my daughter's over to my ex-husband's place, where she's now living. Though I bought the bed, it was specifically for Damian - a nice low height for a preschooler and I don't need another bed around my house. I have a queen for myself, plus a double and two twins (day bed and pop-up bed under the daybed) for guests, so I wanted the extra bed out of my house. There's still a lot of her and Damian's stuff here that I will need to haul there, but it's a start. I'd like to get it all out soon, so I can move rooms back the way they were before Sophia and Damian lived with me, tidy up, clean up and decorate for Christmas. 
So after rounding up all of the stuff I rounded up, loading it up on the pickup truck and hauling it to my ex's place and unloading it again, I knew I wouldn't have the reserve time or energy to do the snow. I think I'll get myself a new push broom. It's not much snow so not worth getting the snowblower out, but a little heavy to use the leafblower. 
With that all to do today, plus a phone call with one of my sisters, I have yet to do any crafting. Or cooking, for that matter. However, I did get some more work done on my tree skirt last evening. 
It's almost there. I found my sewing machine needles for using with metallic thread as I want to use a metallic purple for the quilting part. I think I have some purple metallic thread somewhere. 
I also watched my first Christmas movie of the season last night: Christmas at Castlebury Hall
This has become my favourite Christmas movie. It's a light-hearted romance with a feel-good story line. Movies like It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol have good messages, but the storylines are kind of dark and heavy for a Christmas movie, in my opinion. Holiday Inn I don't particularly care for at all. The deceit and manipulation don't sit well with me. Of course I like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Grinch that Stole Christmas (original animated version). They're always fun and also have good messages, but of course are geared to the younger audience. Just saw the newer version of The Grinch and wasn't too impressed - oh, I watched that before Castlebury Hall, so I guess that was my first this season. Have no desire to see it again next year. There are others I enjoy watching, but for all around favourite, it's Castlebury Hall. If you haven't seen it, check it out.
This morning I spread the Bluenose II quilt top on my bed and snapped a photo to post on facebook so that Cindy could see what her quilt is going to look like. 
I like it, but I'm thinking it would look much better with a blue bedskirt than with my purple one. 😊
Now I'm going to be lazy and have a toasted tomato sandwich for supper. If my avocadoes are ripe, I'll add avocado as well. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Who Can We Trust?

Recently I looked at a review for a quilting book I was considering purchasing. The author of the review stated that there were no instructions for a certain section of one of the quilts and so she just had to figure it out for herself. That would be incredibly frustrating. It made me think twice about whether or not I actually wanted to buy the book. If there were problems with the instructions for this one quilt, how do I know that there aren't similar problems throughout the book.
I have been working on a knitted afghan from a book I own. In the picture, it shows the pattern throughout the afghan, but the instructions indicate that you are to work 8 rows in the pattern followed by 4 rows of knitting. I don't want the bands of knitting in between the rows of pattern. I want it like it is in the picture. So I'm skipping the 4 rows of knitting. 
Many patterns have errors and inaccuracies. After all the authors are just human. Most patterns have errata published after the fact. You can often find them online. But if you've tried and struggled with a pattern, only to give up in frustration and then later to find the errata, it can be quite aggravating. It can result in lost time, lost yarn and therefore lost money. 
But ultimately, how important are these things in the light of eternity? Yes, it can cause frustration and aggravation. And it's certainly wise to check out the reviews on a product/pattern before we purchase or try it in order to avoid these annoyances. But it's far more important that we find who or what we can trust in the spiritual realm, which will determine our eternal destiny. This is not something we should leave to chance. It's one thing to hope that a new pattern designer had pattern testers evaluate their instructions to verify their accuracy. It's quite another to just hope that your source of spiritual truth is trustworthy. Especially if that source is just another erring - and sinful - human being. We all make mistakes - sometimes inadvertently, sometimes calculating and deliberate. And we need a source to verify whether another human being is presenting spiritual truth.
So who or what is the pattern tester to determine the veracity of truth? The Bible says in Isaiah 8:20, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Or, as the New Living Translation puts it, "Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark." And John 17:7 states, "Thy word is truth." God's word, the Bible, is the guide by which we should test all teachings. If a teaching contradicts His word, it's "darkness," as Isaiah 8:20 says. Psalm 119:105 tells us, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." The Bible is a trustworthy light on our pathway to peace, to heaven, to Jesus. And there is no errata for that Pattern. 
May God guide you on the pathway to truth.
For more information on this topic, see Is There Anything Left You Can Trust?

Friday, 18 November 2016

So Disappointing

I was out the door a little past 7:30 this morning, on my way to Central Sewing Machines to finally quilt the Bluenose II pixel quilt. About 15 minutes from the store, my warning light came on with the message to add air to my left front tire. A little concerning since I had just been at the Kal Tire a couple of days ago to have them check the air in my tires. Did I have a leaky tire? What to do about it? I decided not to stop, but watched for a gas station so that I could stop on my way home to inflate the tire. However, I arrived at the store about 15 minutes before it opened, so I went back to the Petro Can I had spotted. I chose to overfill the tire in case it was leaking and hopefully it would stay inflated until I got back home. Unfortunately, the gas station was right on a very busy intersection, and there was no way I could go back the way I came because of medians and left turns, so I glanced at the map and left the gas station, turning right. And then another right, which took me through a light industrial section and I ended up making a wrong turn and got a tour of the neighbourhood that I hadn't planned on. Rechecked map and got myself going in the right direction and ended up back at Central Sewing 15-20 minutes after opening. I had wanted to get an early start on the quilt, so this was rather frustrating to me. 
According to the Bible, the Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday night. And at this time of year, that's pretty early, around 4:30. The hours of the Sabbath are sacred, so I don't quilt or do business on the Sabbath. So I wanted to make sure I got an early start on the quilt and finish up in plenty of time for the Sabbath to begin. As a matter of fact, on my way in, I was praying that the Lord would not allow the devil to keep me from finishing the quilt before the Sabbath began. 
I don't use a long arm quilting machine often enough to feel comfortable loading the quilt myself, so I asked for assistance. Unfortunately, the person who was assisting me was not a quilter and had just taken the training herself. She changed the needle for me and wound my first bobbin. I scratched my head over some of the things she did, and it seemed to be taking forever to get it loaded. Finally we had backing, batting and quilt top loaded on the frame. Then she left me, while I got the pantograph set up and then I was ready to begin, about 10:30. Not a good thing. This is a LARGE double quilt - actually large enough to fit a queen, and I was going to be quilting a rather dense pattern, so I was rather concerned about my time constraints. And, as it turned out, I was not ready to begin. When I started trying to baste the layers together, the machine wasn't cooperating at all. I couldn't pull the bobbin thread up, the needle got stuck and the thread broke. I went to get help and eventually we had to get someone who works in the store that actually owns one of these machines (HQ Avante), so she fiddled with it a bit and thought it might be my thread (Aurilux). She switched threads and still had problems. And then she finally noticed that the needle was in backwards! Switched the needle around and it seemed to be working fine, so we switched back to my thread and I tried again. Started to baste across the top but it kept skipping stitches. <sigh> By this time, it was 11:05. They had offered to allow me to leave the quilt on the machine if I didn't finish and come back Monday night when they're open until 8:30. But I had had more than enough frustration for one morning and decided to just take the quilt off the frame and leave. I really didn't want to drive back again on Monday night in the dark. I'm not fond of driving in the dark. 
So once again the pixel quilt is not finished. And I'm not sure how I'm going to get it finished. My scheduled days off always fall on a Friday, but I don't think I will try again to do a quilt on a Friday at this time of year. It's just cutting it to close to try and get it done before the Sabbath. And I have no more vacation to use until April, unless I borrow from next year's vacation. I've even used up my floating stat. I wish there was a longarm studio that was open on Sundays and then there wouldn't be a problem. Ultimately, I really need to get my own longarm machine. I just have to figure out how I'm going to afford it. And I need to de-clutter and finish the rest of the basement. In the meantime, I have found the Getting Started: HQ Avante videos on Youtube. Before I go next time, I intend to review them thoroughly and then I should be able to change the needle, wind the bobbin and load the quilt all on my own. One thing I will say about Central Sewing Machines, they actually clock you in on a time clock when you rent their machines, but you don't clock in until you're ready to sew. They don't charge you for the loading and set-up time. The other studio I rented at charged twice as much per hour and did include the loading/set-up time. Ouch! I could have saved a lot of money if I'd been renting at Central all along. 
All was not lost on my trip to the city, however. I was able to stop at McGavin's Bread Basket and pick up some Silver Hills bread. Silver Hills is my favourite bread. Made of all whole grains, mostly organic, it has body, it has texture, it has substance. Not like that doughy stuff you usually find at the grocery store, even the whole grain stuff. Silver Hills, however, does not usually come cheap. $4-5/loaf, or more, if you can find it. However, the stuff they sell at McGavin's Bread Basket is closer to the best before date, so they sell it cheaper. As in 10 loaves for $14.99 (or something like that), but you have to buy 10 loaves. No problem, I have a freezer. So I was really happy to make that stop as I was running low on bread. 
Next stop was Payless Shoes, where I was actually able to find a pair of shoes that fit me and were comfortable (till I wore them for the rest of the day, but that's me and my bad feet). Stopped at a mall for lunch and then hit the Fabricland and purchased some fabric to console myself after today's disappointment. 
First I found this panel. It has the Beautitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), Amazing Grace, the Prayer of Serenity, the Prayer of St. Francis and some mini panels that have Christian symbols on them. Not sure what I'll use the mini panels for. Some of them look like they're supposed to be bookmarks. I'm sure I'll figure out something. 
Next I found this train fabric. I took what was left on the bolt, less than two metres, I think.
While I was waiting in line at the cutting table, I spied this Stonehenge fabric. I'm not a big brown/beige fan, but my basement bathroom is beige and black and I thought this might make a nice wallhanging in there. Again, I bought what was left on the bolt.
All of the fabric I purchased was on sale, which makes me even happier. 
On my way back into town, I stopped at Walmart to pick up tahini and see if they had miso or umeboshi paste. Nada. Not even the tahini, at least not that I could find. 
And no more warning lights for my tire. It remained (over)inflated. 
The Sabbath has begun now, so I wish you all a happy Sabbath.