Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Another Fair, More Ribbons

At the next country fair in our area, I entered even more items than at the previous one and brought home 6 red (firsts) and 3 blues (seconds). Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, which is too bad because they had the larger quilts displayed nicely at the fair. I took these photos at home afterwards. 
The Florence Nightingale quilt and So You Think You Can Quilt both took red ribbons again,

while this time the Scrappy Shine quilt and the Firecracker Throw got reds as well. They both placed second in the previous fair. 

There was a Paper Pieced class at this fair, so I also entered the Dreamweaver Quilt 
which was awarded a blue ribbon.
I entered two different cowls in this show, the two dropped stitch cowls. The knitted one took a blue ribbon
and the crocheted one was awarded a red. 
In the Small Crocheted Article, I entered my Argyle Crochet Pot Holder, which won a red ribbon.
And finally I decided to include my first attempt at an acrylic painting (outside of the practice ones I did in class). 
Surprisingly, my Painted Trillium won a second. 
That's it for fair season this year. Now that the "fair bug" has bitten, I intend to plan better for next year's fairs. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

My First Fair Entries

This is my last day of vacation. During my vacation, my daughter and I took Damian to the local fair. It was kind of a bust for a toddler, not quite 3 years old. Most of the rides are too advanced for him. And the bouncy castle had too many bigger kids in it for it to be safe for him. The petting zoo had so many other kids that Damian found it overwhelming. And the bench show was rather disappointing for me as well. Only 4 quilted items total, all of which were small items. No large quilts.There was only one knitted afghan which was barely baby size, no crocheted afghan, and a few smaller items in those categories. And that for a town of 6000 with the largest fair in the area. It got me to thinking about entering some of my projects. 
I first started thinking about entering my projects many years ago when I was still living in London, Ontario. While visiting the Western Fair, I noticed a cake that had won a ribbon that was just covered with stars (different colours, according to the desired design), which is one of the simplest ways to decorate a cake. And I knew I could do better than that as I was into cake decorating at that time. However, I never followed up. Then, when my daughter was younger and we were living in Alberta, I helped her enter several projects in the local fairs. It seems almost every little community in rural Alberta has a fair or rodeo. So my daughter entered in the bigger fair in town, and a couple of smaller fairs in other communities. 
After seeing the rather dismal display at the local fair, I remembered that the two other area fairs were around the same time as our fair. And decided to investigate. Sure enough, today was the one in the small hamlet and this coming Wednesday is the one in a nearby village. Since I had never entered anything in a fair before, I had a collection of projects that qualified to enter. (You cannot enter the same item in the same fair more than once). I managed to come up with 7 items to enter: a large quilt, a crib quilt, a small quilted article, a knitted article not listed (cowl), crocheted doll clothes, crocheted afghan, and a crocheted item not listed (another cowl). And I brought home a ribbon for each one!
You may remember that I have said before that I do not make "show quality" quilts, so I did not expect to win much, if anything for my quilts. However, entering a quilt in a quilt show and entering one in a local country fair are not the same thing. 
Here's the rundown of my ribbons, just note that red ribbons are first place in Canada and blue ribbons are second place. 
The Florence Nightingale qult 

won first place in the Large Quilt class.

The Scrappy Shine quilt

won second place in the crib quilt class.

So You Think You Can Quilt
won first place in the Small Quilted Article class.
Candi's Checked Cowl
won first place in the Other Knitted Article Not Listed class.
My toilet paper doll won first place in the Crocheted Doll Clothes class (second place winner in the background).
The Firecracker Throw
won second place in the Crocheted Afghan class (first place in background, third place on the left).
And the Twisted Cowl
won second place in the Other Crocheted Article Not listed class (seen here in the background with the first place item in the foreground).
On Wednesday, I will enter some items in the next fair. I haven't decided if I'll enter all of the same items or not. I have other cowls that could be entered that I will not have the opportunity to enter again as they will be given away at Christmas. 
This was fun. There was more competition in this small fair than there would have been had I entered the one in town. And I earned a little money, too, as there are small cash prizes along with the ribbons. Next year, I will likely have entries in all three fairs, but I might be competing against my daughter as she is resuming her hobbies of quilting and crocheting. And that will make me proud. And I intend for my grandson to begin his fair entries as well. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Camping with My Grandson

I had originally planned on being at Campmeeting this week. However, I was unable to book a serviced campsite at our church campgrounds, and I wasn't about to stay at an unserviced site. It kind of defeats the purpose of having a trailer in the first place if I can't use the washroom, lights, furnace... There never seems to be a surplus of money in my budget, plus I had finally decided to hire someone to complete my renovation project for me, so this was going to be a "staycation." However, having my trailer sit idle on a friend's acreage for 2 or 3 years rather defeats the purpose of having it as well. I looked at the calendar and was reminded that the coming weekend was actually a "long" weekend, August 3rd being Civic Holiday here in Alberta. And I really hadn't done anything special for a long weekend in a long time. So I contacted my daughter and asked if she and Damian would like to go camping with Grandma for the weekend. So we did. 
Since it was pretty much a last minute idea, I basically threw everything together. Planning on a weiner roast, I remembered the hot dog buns, but not the weiners. There were a few other things I forgot, but we got by. And mostly had a good time. I brought along Damian's bike and his bubble lawn mower, which he drove so hard that it was "foaming at the mouth." He wasn't sure what to make of this "little house" and a couple of times asked to "go home." 
I didn't know what Sophia would bring along for him to play with, so bought a few things at the dollar store, both for inside in case of rain and as well as outdoor toys. Sophia brought some of each, too, so he had enough to do, even though it rained one whole morning. Unfortunately, the camp site was very gravelly, so not the best play site. And Damian did end up with scraped knees as a result.There was a playground in the camp, but after meeting up with the same "brat" there twice - first, when he tried to take off with Damian's bubble lawn mower and second, when he carelessly smacked Damian in the face with a stick, narrowly missing his eye - we decided to mostly avoid the playground. But having both Mom and Grandma to play with made up for that. Damian would want to be outside from before breakfast in the morning until last thing at night, outside of nap time, which we had to enforce when he got grumpy. He was quite thrilled with the water pistols that I bought him. At one point he jumped into what Sophia referred to as his Mission Impossible stance: legs spread, water pistol held front and centre in both hands. He was seldom without one of his water pistols, taking them along as we walked and squirting every stone or stick that we saw along the way. He took one of his water pistols with him when we went hiking, which turned into dinosaur hunting. In his world, dinosaurs are friendly and we weren't hunting them to shoot them, just seeking them out. And we brought one home to have lunch with us. Ah, the imagination of a toddler!
Conveniently, I had purchased a set of 3 water pistols, so we did have one water pistol fight between the three of us. I decided to try Damian's Mission Impossible stance, shouting "Freeze" as I jumped into position. But what does a not quite three-year-old know about "freezing?" Instead, he imitated me, jumping into position and shouting "Freeze." And promptly fell down. Sophia remarked that he should be on one of those gag cop shows.
We only had one campfire during the weekend. Campfires don't work very well with toddlers. Toddlers like to run and jump and play, not sit still gazing into a fire. Roasting marshmallows or weiners wouldn't have been a good plan as he'd want to do it himself and it would be too great a safety hazard. We did find a compromise when Grandma demonstrated making water sizzle by spraying water from the water pistol on the metal fire pit. He sat still for a while to join me in that activity, but it also highlighted the hazard. Instantaneous vaporization meant that fire pit was very HOT! It's amazing the silly things you find yourself doing when you have a grandchild. After he got up and started blowing bubbles with his mother, I suddenly smelled melting plastic and looked down and saw a spark had landed on his lawn chair. So thankful he was not in his chair when that landed. 
Blowing bubbles was another activity we pursued on the weekend, even in the rain. I got a set of various bubble wands and was able to produce some pretty big bubbles with some of them. One of these new wands looked like a smoker's pipe. I filled the bowl with bubble fluid, but the results were less than satisfactory. Damian decided he wanted to try that one. Unfortunately, after blowing out, he then sucked in and was pretty disgusted with the mouth full of bubble fluid he got as a result. 
I did get a lot of exercise this weekend and not enough sleep. The dining table that becomes a bed is just not comfortable enough for my middle-aged body. And I've got a mountain of laundry. So I feel like it will take the remainder of my vacation just to catch up. 
After this weekend, I have concluded that, while my trailer is perfect for just me, it's definitely crowded with the three of us. But we will make do. We'll have to because money is going to be tight for a while. Sophia and Damian are moving back in with me so that Sophia can pursue the practical nurse program and become an LPN. I'm very proud of her.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Knitting, Crocheting, Cooking and Vacuum Cleaners

Aside from yesterday's devotional, I realized it's been over two months since I last posted on my blog. So this may be a long update. I'll start with vacuum cleaners. In order to take some of the pictures for today's post, I wanted to vacuum the carpet first. With two cats in the house, one of which is long-haired, cat fur accumulates rapidly in my house. However, when I started the vacuum cleaner up, it was leaving most of the fluff behind. I also noticed a peculiar "whine" to the motor and the smell of burnt rubber. I turned the vacuum cleaner off and checked all of the extension wands for plugs: nothing. Then I remembered that the last time I had used the power head, I had problems with it and determined to take it apart and clean out all of the "stuff" wrapped around the roller. I hadn't done that yet. So I got my tool kit, sat down on the floor and took the power head apart. Yuk! What a mess of dirt, hair, cat fur, thread, yarn, tinsel, whatever! The dirt was caked on so thick that I was scraping it off with a flathead screwdriver and I was still not getting it all off. I finally resorted to spraying it with Fantastik and got it relatively clean with that. I didn't even know that there were instructions for changing the belt embossed on the inside of the top until I got it clean enough to see them. I was calculating and figure I've likely had that vacuum cleaner for about 8-1/2 years. And I've never taken the powerhead apart. I'm not sure where the instructions are for it, but I don't remember reading anything about taking the powerhead apart regularly to clean it. I guess I'll have to add that to my spring cleaning tasks. Hmm, just remembered that I've got a powerhead on my central vac as well. I probably should take that one apart too... And, in case you're wondering why I have both a canister vac and a central vac - I had the canister vac before I bought my house and the central vac came with the house. The central vac is really old, though it still works, and I just seem to alternate between the two of them. And currently the central vac is "out of commision" as I have taken the cannister off to get behind it to finish the drywall. It's in the sewing area of my basement, which I'm supposed to be renovating. 
And on the topic of the renovations - not much progress there. I just find it very difficult to work full time, cook, clean, maintain the yard, pursue my hobbies and complete renovations. And I'm a little bit intimidated about doing the flooring myself. So I have determined to get an estimate or two to see if I can afford to pay someone else to get it done. I'm really getting tired of not being able to quilt and having all of my supplies stacked in the living room. Kind of puts a damper on having company: "Just pull up a box of fabric and have a seat."
On the crafting front, June's "Learn a Stitch, Make this Cowl" was the Le Papillon Cowl. I'm not sure what "Le Papillon" has to do with it because I do not really see anything reminiscent of a butterfly in the cowl. I bought the suggested Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable yarn and began the cowl.
It really wasn't going well. And I have decided that I really don't like this yarn. While it comes in beautiful colours, it is not fun to work with. It's marked as a 4 weight, but it's unevenly spun and there are long sections where it's probably only a 2 weight between slubs of 4 weight. It also has a bit of a nap (I know that's a fabric word, but I don't know what to call it in yarn) which makes it really difficult to frog, and I ended up breaking it at least 3 times as you can see in the picture above. I'd had enough. 
And I'm puzzled. Red Heart has so many different yarns, so I don't know why they would choose to use the same yarn in more than one cowl. March's Lovable Cowl was also made with Unforgettable yarn. I had problems with that one, too, but I blamed that on my knitting skills. And both January's and April's cowls called for Medley, though I didn't use it for April's. And I decided not to use Unforgettable for June's either. I bought a skein of Super Saver in Monet and proceeded with that. 
Meanwhile I was having issues with the pattern.
I really didn't like the way the pattern said to do the bobbles. You end up with 11 loops on the hook and then have to yarn over and draw through all 11 loops. That is an awful lot of loops to get your hook through. I tried it and ended up with what looked like messy balls of yarn. You can see that in the Unforgettable yarn in the foreground of the picture above. Not only did I not like the look of it, but I thought all of those loose loops of yarn would be easy to get caught on something. So I decided to do the traditional bobble stitch with the Super Saver yarn, as you can see above, and I'm much happier with it. 
And here's the final product:
Super Saver was much easier to work with than Unforgettable. And I love the Monet. And here I am trying it on:
I also made progress on my grandson's cardigan:
This is the left front and I've still got a lot of ends to work in, as you can see. I've got the right front done to just below where the picture starts. His birthday is August 30, and I'm hoping to have it done by then. It's the first time I've tried Intarsia knitting and I'm not unhappy with how it's turning out. 
Also for my grandson's birthday is the Choo-Choo Train Afghan.
No choo-choo train on it yet, however, but the main body of the afghan is finished. I have to finish adding the fringe on each end, then crochet the train cars and stitch them on. You can see how little space I had to spread it out because of all the sewing room clutter in my living room.
You'll remember that I've been working on the Vivaldi throw. Here it is to date:
Still a long way from being finished. And it needs to be done by August 16th. I had a friend offer to buy this one from me, and I told her that I don't sell my projects, but I kept the fact that she liked this one in the back of my mind. I didn't have a recipient in mind for it when I started, but when I found out this same friend is celebrating her 50th anniversary this year, I knew who the recipient would be.
One Sabbath morning when my daughter and grandson were visiting, my daughter was wearing a sundress for church. As it is usually a little chilly in the mornings, I asked if she wanted a wrap. But most of my wraps were more for winter and she said that they were all too heavy. I ended up giving her a large muslin scarf, but said that I would need to make her a lighter weight cotton wrap. I later bought some Bernat Handicrafter Cotton in Lotus Blossom, but needed to find an appropriate pattern. As it is intended to be a summer wrap, I did not want a very densely crocheted pattern. It's not that I don't have patterns at home, but decided to look at what was available while I was at Walmart.  I found the summer issue of Crochet! Magazine, which had 3 wraps in it, none of which were done in 4 weight. But it's just a wrap, so I figured I could adjust the pattern. I really love the Feileacan Shawl, which has Celtic knot butterflies down the back. The pattern calls for a 2 weight yarn and so I decided to try the butterfly to see if it looked acceptable in 4 weight. I was happy with it and proceeded to make the right half of the shawl.
This is the completed right half of the shawl and the one butterfly. I haven't finished sewing the butterfly yet. I actually completed the whole right half following the pattern, but it ended up being much too long in the back, so I frogged enough rows to eliminate one butterfly down the back. Or was it two? Anyway, not all of the pattern was working to my liking - the rows weren't lining up the way they should. So I made my own alterations, but don't ask me now what they were. Hopefully I can remember them when I complete the left half. The Ravelry link that gives pattern corrections (but not the ones I wanted) can be found here. There are supposed to be beads added along the bottom edge of the shawl, but I haven't decided if I'm going to add them or not. The only ones I found that were the right size with a big enough bore hole are silver and I'm not sure if that's the best colour for this yarn. Besides leaning back against beads on a wooden pew might be rather uncomfortable. Feileacan, by the way, is Irish for butterfly. This is the first time I've attempted a crochet pattern with a rating of 6 (challenging). My daughter's birthday is September 5th, so I hope to have it finished by then.
July's cowl is the Love this Lacy Cowl. It's a knitted pattern and just emphasizes the reason why I prefer crocheting over knitting. Somehow I got my stitches out of order and the pattern doesn't line up like it should. But frogging when you're knitting is more trouble than it's worth. So I've left the mistakes in there and figure it will still be pretty. Just not perfect.
The pattern called for Red Heart Sparkle Soft, but I'm using Bernat Satin Sparkle in coral. I generally go with what I like that's available locally in the appropriate guage. I can't always make a trip to the city and don't necessarily want to have to pay for shipping if I order online. It's less than half finished and, by next weekend, the August cowl pattern will be available. For a pattern that's rated "easy," I'm not really finding it so. It will likely have to be set aside until September as it's intended for a Christmas present, whereas the above 4 projects have more imminent deadlines. However, my vacation starts Friday, July 31, and I'm hoping to get at least the Vivaldi throw finished during that time. I can't afford to go anywhere, especially if I end up paying someone to complete my renovations, but will hopefully get some serious crafting time in. 
July 31st is also the 7th anniversary of my divorce. Maybe I should do something to celebrate!
Meanwhile I actually had time to do some real cooking this week. By "real cooking" I mean more than just boiling some pasta and pouring on some sauce from a jar. I made Scrambled Tofu Breakfast Burritos. The filling is made overnight in a crockpot.
Yummy! This is from one of my new favourite cookbooks.

This cookbook is perfect for me. I love slow cookers and the recipes are for one or two people. 
Now it's time for lunch. I have a lawn to mow and a handyman to find who can give me an estimate on my renovations. Not to mention a powerhead to put back together now that it's had a chance to dry out after cleaning. So that's all for now.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Taking a Rock to Church

This morning I took a rock to church. 

No, I wasn't planning on stoning someone. <grin> I was supposed to be giving the children's story during the church service and it was one of the illustrations for my story. During Sabbath School, however, one of the church members became ill and I, being a nurse, was called upon to render my services. I don't think a nurse was required, but when one is ill, somehow having a nurse nearby is a comforting thought to many. So I ended up being otherwise occupied during the church service and asked my niece to substitute for me as a last minute stand-in for the children's story. Which she did willingly. And my rock just sat abandoned on my pew until I could retrieve it after the church service when the ailing church member was taken home by her husband. 
It seems altogether too often that things don't go as we hoped, planned or dreamed. As the poet Robert Burns said,
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley. [often go awry

And while not being able to use my rock for children's story was of no great consequence, there are many unachieved goals that are far more significant. I can look back over my own life and acknowledge that I've had my share of crushed dreams, disppointed hopes and derailed plans. As a prime example, when I was walking down the aisle nearly 29 years ago, I planned on a life of wedded bliss, not the frequently miserable existence of emotional abuse into which it devolved. Life holds many surprises, not all of them pleasant. Along life's road are many forks, detours and hairpin curves. And sometimes, it's difficult not to lose our way. But we have the assurance when our lives seem to get off track, 
If you stray to the right or the left, you will hear a word that comes from behind you: “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 CEB
Our heavenly Father knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and He has a plan for each one of our lives. And even when life seems to be taking us through a detour, He knows how to get us back to the right road. We have His promise:
We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 CEB
Even when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and question whether there actually is an end to the tunnel, we know that He is there with us in the darkness.
For Thou art my lamp, O Lord; and the Lord will lighten my darkness. 2 Samuel 22:29
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5
So when life forces us off the road at a hairpin curve, He will give us strength to get back on the road and keep on going.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV
My life has definitely not been perfect. No, far from it. But as John Newton said, "Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

Monday, 18 May 2015

Hook & Needle News - 18/05/15

Remember that I've been looking for a project in which to use Red Heart Super Saver blacklight yarn? Well, I decided to google it, and I found this scarf using Argyle Crochet and I was fascinated. I had never seen or heard of this technique before. And I decided to buy the Kindle book and give it a try. Here's the link to the book:

The book suggests that you try several swatches to practice before actually tackling a project. Here's my first attempt:
I added a scalloped edging and decided to use it as a pot holder/trivet. 
By the way, my plans are to make an afghan out of the blacklight yarn, using Argyle Crochet. I'm just hoping I'll have enough. The book says that you should make sure to use all one dye lot as the length of each colour can vary between dye lots. I've had to shop around at different Walmarts to find what I could of the same dye lot. And since this technique is done in single crochet, I'm sure it will take a lot of yarn. I currently have 7 skeins plus what's left over from making the Drop Stitch Cowl. I may have to try another Walmart or two. 
Here's the Drop Stitch Cowl:

Here's where I'm at with the Vivaldi Throw:
I've also started on the Choo-Choo Train Afghan for my grandson:
The main body of the afghan should work up quite quickly as it's double strands of knitting worsted using a 10.0 mm hook.  Then I have to add fringe and crochet and applique the trains.
I haven't made any progress on the Crystal Roses afghan or Sophie's Universe. But I have made progress on my basement crafting studio. I have finished the drywall taping and cornerbead and one coat of mud to all places that required it (and lots of places that didn't). I just have to wait for the mud to dry so I can sand and apply the next layer. However, now that nice weather is here, it's time to do some yard work. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

"Cover Girls"

"Toilet paper dolls" is a rather unflattering moniker. Also a bit misleading since it almost makes it sound like the dolls are made of toilet paper. "Toilet paper cover dolls" is rather cumbersome. So, I've opted to nickname them "cover girls." Here's my first one:
I remember these from my childhood, but I can't honestly say it is with fondness or even nostalgia. My mother never had them in the house. With 7 children, we probably went through so much toilet paper that one of these dolls would be more trouble than it was worth. And most of them from my childhood looked more like this: 
The dolls weren't particularly attractive and they weren't very successful at hiding what they were supposed to be hiding under their incredibly cylindrical dresses. So I really hadn't had a desire to own or create one of these. Until a few years ago I acquired some patterns for them along with some other crocheting paraphernalia I got at a yard sale. And for me it was a new challenge. And recently I decided to take up that challenge. Finding a couple of Skipper-sized dolls at the thrift store, I knew they were the same height as the dolls used for this purpose and decided to see if they would work. 
The patterns actually called for worsted weight yarn. I felt that was quite bulky for such a small doll and considered using sport weight, but the local selection is pretty slim. So I opted to use Red Heart Soft Touch, which is one of the lightest worsted weight available at our Walmart. The only lighter one is Red Heart Unforgettable, but I didn't want a variegated yarn for this project. I also went down a hook size from the recommended 3.75 to a 3.50.
Before I go any further, I want to tell you how I compare yarns. I use metres per gram. I look on the label and find the number of metres and the number of grams and divide. For example, Red Heart Comfort solids have 792 metres in a 454 gram ball. That yields 1.74 metres per gram. Soft Touch is 1.9 and Unforgettable is 2.56. The higher the number, the ligther or finer the yarn. It's a handy index to have when substituting or combining yarns in a project, especially a project where guage is very important. 
So, I began to crochet, but had to make adjustments as anything in the Barbie family is quite a bit more shapely than the original toilet paper dolls. However, increasing and decreasing left too many openings where the doll's "flesh" showed through. I wasn't very happy about this. And as the skirt got longer, the weight of it pulled on these openings and made them bigger. And then, somehow the skirt was a little overwhelming for this tiny doll:
I do believe that there's a lot more "give" to this yarn than some other worsted weights, such as Red Heart Comfort, and as I started adding ruffles, the increased weight just seemed to pull the dress longer and longer. By this time, I had decided that Barbie was going to work better for this dress than the Skipper-sized doll and tried her out in the dress. Actually, at first I tried a doll called Darci, who is about an inch taller than Barbie. No, that's not going to work. She is too tall and risked topping over into the toilet bowl. Definitely not what I wanted to happen after putting all that work into this dress. So, then Barbie tried the dress on and she's pretty steady in her toilet paper stand and hopefully won't go for a dip. 
Unfortunately, with all that extra weight in the skirt, the armhole openings were stretched almost to Barbie's waist, so I had to do some more modifications. I crocheted some additional stitches under the arms and darned the openings around the waist. Still, there was a little too much Barbie showing through, so I crocheted her some black panties. The trim was supposed to be lace, but I was not about to handstitch yards of lace onto this dress. So I added the border in double strands of a 2-weight sparkle and sequin yarn (Loops and Threads Payette yarn from Michael's). I chose beige as the bathroom where she now resides is done in black and beige. 
I wasn't sure if I was going to make the hat or not. As I had yarn left over, I decided to give it a try. I greatly digressed from the pattern as Barbie's head is a lot smaller then the toilet tissue doll's. I'm not sure if I like it or not. I have to admit, however, that I think Barbie looks much better than the toilet tissue doll. Not only is she a prettier doll, but it's not so obvious that she's hiding toilet paper.