Friday, 1 January 2016

My Crafting Year in Review - 2015

Mystery making himself comfortable in the Go Wild quilt.
Near the beginning of this year, I resolved to get the renovations completed in my basement crafting studio, so resolved to spend less time and money on crafting materials and supplies and more on getting the studio finished. I couldn't do any quilting to speak of, with the studio in disarray and most of my supplies piled up in the living room. But I could still crochet and knit. And somehow, I really couldn't stick to my resolution to forgo the pleasures of crafting in favour of renovating. It's not that I'm not capable of renovating. It's just not my forte. With some help from my ex-husband, I got started on the drywall - all the corner bead and taping and the first coat of mudding. With the renos stalled due to inertia on my part, I decided to hire someone to complete them. Big mistake. My daughter and grandson live with me, and it seemed every time I got home, my daughter had some new horror story of something stupid the man I had hired had done. It was taking him forever just to finish the drywall. It didn't help that he decided to use a power sander to sand down the mudding I had already done. I got the impression that he was offended by the job that I (and my ex-husband, who, by the way spent a large share of his life working in construction and his drywall technique is impeccable) had completed and intended to erase any traces of my work, nearly removing the wall and the tape in the process. Not to mention the fact that I have an open concept basement and the studio only takes up one end. He didn't bother to hang any barrier between the studio and the rest of the room or to cover up the central vac, which is on the wall in the studio, until after he had done the power sanding. He also had to borrow at least one of my tools and my Shop Vac. I specifically told him to let me know if he needed anything more and I would pick it up, but he went and bought some things on his own anyway. I finally told him to just finish up the drywall and that was all. After telling me what a perfectionist he was in finishing drywall, I discovered what a perfectionist he wasn't when I did the painting. I had some pre-mixed mud and apparently that wasn't enough, so he went and bought some powdered stuff and mixed it himself. There were lots of pinholes from the air bubbles in the mud. He also slopped mud in many places, including liberally on my Shop Vac, and never cleaned it off. And there were spots where he had slopped it on the wall and hadn't sanded it down properly. <sigh> And for this I paid him a considerable sum of money! Never again. I got professionals to install the lighting and flooring and my niece's husband put in the baseboard. I'm still waiting for the ex to put in the window casing. In case you're wondering why I didn't get my ex-husband to do the whole job - I would have gladly done so because I know the quality of his work, but he now works as a long haul truck driver, seldom home and no time for my renos. Anyway, in spite of the imperfections in the drywall, I am quite satisfied with my studio. Except that I still have more stuff than I have room for, and the room remains a mess waiting for me to sort everything and decide where to put it all. It didn't help that my daughter and grandson moved in with me this year, so my space is a bit tighter than it was at the outset of this year.
The painting is finished.

DriCore subflooring stacked and waiting installation.
After the flooring was installed, Sophia and I assembled the storage units.
Beginning to fill the storage units, fabric to the left and yarn to the right. Notice the baseboard has been installed.
I mounted the pegboard and hung my quilting rulers and rotary cutters.
The room is mostly set up now, but still needs some serious tidying. Eager to begin crafting again, Sophia dove in with the serger. 
I waited anxiously for my map rail to arrive from so that I could hang my design wall. 
This will be my crocheting/knitting/designing corner. I have since added a vintage storage ottoman which is, of course, full of yarn.
Waiting to get my renovations done, I just couldn't continue to abstain from crafting, so that's when I got out my crochet hooks. I had enrolled in a course in Bavarian Crochet from Annie's some time ago and decided to give that a try and finished this headband and gave it to my niece. 

 I also joined a Mystery CAL (crochet along), bought the yarn and looked forward to a beautiful afghan. However, in my opinion, the blocks just kept getting uglier.

 Not being a quitter, I was determined to see it through, but after finishing only one of the above blocks, I decided not to waste any more time and yarn and found another project for the yarn I'd purchased.

This one is still a work in progress, but hopefully will finish it in 2016. The following afghan, after lanquishing for several years, was finally completed and gifted to a new great nephew, Seth. 

Another decision in the earlier part of this year was that I must either get back into knitting or get rid of my knitting needles. I searched online for a short and relatively easy project and found Red Heart's monthly "Learn a Stitch, Make this Cowl" program and determined to make every cowl in the program, using them as Christmas gifts for my daughter, my 5 sisters, my 3 nieces, my sister-in-law and my only remaining aunt, with one left over for me. Towards the end of the year, I still had 5 cowls to make and knew I wouldn't have time to finish all of the cowls in the program, so substituted some of my own selection. I posted pictures of them all to facebook and requested the recipients to respond with their favourites, so I had a better idea of which one to give to whom. One of my sisters, one of my nieces and my sister-in-law never responded, so I had to assume that meant they didn't want one. I can't really fault them for not wanting one as, by the time I was finished, I acknowledged what I had really known all along: what a ridiculous piece of apparel a cowl actually is, and decided I didn't want one either. However, I will fault them in being too rude to respond at all. My aunt also passed away before Christmas. So 5 cowls ended up in a donation box for a homeless centre. Honestly, I think Aunt Isabelle would be very happy with the fact that her cowl ended up with a homeless person. And I'm still proud of the fact that I was able to complete what I ended up calling The 12 Cowls of Christmas. Candi's Checked Cowl (knitted) was my first cowl and it was given to my sister Cindy.
I then decided to try another knitted one, but was never happy with the Lovable Cowl and instead I referred to it as the Unlovable Cowl. This one went in the donation box. This was the first time I ever used Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable yarn. Beautiful colours, but the experience really was unforgettable.
The Twisted Cowl (crocheted) went to my sister Nancy.
The Drop Stitch Crocheted Cowl went to my niece, Tara. For this one, I needed a large knitting needle, but couldn't find the correct size locally and didn't want to wait until I ordered it or got to the city to purchase one, so I ended up using a wooden dowel. So this became the Dowel Cowl.
My daughter, Sophia, loves bright colours, like me, so she chose the Drop Stitch Knitted Cowl.
Le Papillon Cowl was supposed to be made from Unforgettable yarn but that just wasn't working out for me, so I switched to a Red Heart Super Saver in Monet and switched up the Bobble stitch so that I liked the looks of it better. My sister Judy chose this one. 
Really liking the colourways of Charisma yarn, I made the mistake of using it in the Entrelac Crochet Cowl. It was much too bulky and stiff for this pattern and it ended up in the donation box. 
I started the Love This Lacy Cowl (knitted), but set it aside to pursue other projects, and, as I said, by the time I got back to cowls, it was less than 6 weeks to Christmas. Meanwhile, I had picked up some round knitting looms at a thrift store and some clearance yarn at Michael's, so grabbed a bulky yarn and my largest loom and produced this Basic Loom Knitted Cowl. I actually really like this one as it's the most practical design - keeps the neck warm without a whole lot of excess bulk. But I found it too scratchy against my neck. It ended up in the donation box.
Having purchased a book on Tunisian crochet in 2014, I next decided to make the Tunisian Sorbet Cowl out of a dollar store blanket type yarn. It, too, went for the homeless. 
I then attempted to restart the Love This Lacy Cowl. I really have a hard time keeping track of my stitches in a knitting pattern that uses a lot of psso, k2tog & ssk and my pattern doesn't line up properly and I end up with too many or too few stitches. This was one of the problems with the Lovable Cowl as well. So I ripped this one out and made the Crocodile Cowl from a pattern in my Annie's course on Crocodile Stitch Crochet. My niece Julie got this one. 
I then went back to the Bavarian stitch and made the Bavarian Dragonfly Cowl from the Unforgettable yarn I had purchased for Le Papillon Cowl. I think I'm beginning to figure out how to manage this yarn. This cowl went to my sister Janet.
When I first bought the knitting looms, I was googling for patterns and found this seed stitch cowl on youtube. Done in Bernat Blanket Harvest colourway, I christened it the Harvest Seed Cowl. This one ended up in the donation box. 
Many of you may remember those toilet paper dolls, whose full and elaborate dresses were used to conceal a roll of toilet paper. In amongst one of my yardsale finds was a set of patterns for these dolls and the dresses are quite pretty. Not having ready access to the original (and rather ugly) dolls that were used for these, I resorted to using a Barbie doll. 
As you can see, this outfit won a red ribbon (which is 1st place in Canada) in a local fair. I entered several of my craft projects in a couple of local fairs and took home quite a number of ribbons. (You can see my blog posts about them here and here). Unfortunately, this Barbie was sitting on the back of my toilet in the basement bathroom when my not-so-handyman decided to power sand the drywall and she ended up liberally coated in drywall dust. I tossed the outfit into the dryer on the air only setting and it came out good as new.
Sometime this year, I discovered Argylle crochet and bought the ebook. I finished a potholder. Really, it's too tedious a method to finish much of anything else, though it looks really nice. 
Perusing a crochet magazine, I found the pattern for the Vivaldi Throw and decided to make it, eventually giving it to a friend for her 50th wedding anniversary.
As my grandson loves trains, I made him the Choo-Choo Train afghan. It was quite tedious having to sew on all those train cars, wheels and windows individually. I'm really glad it's finally finished.
Also for Damian, I made this child-friendly cut, sew and stuff Nativity Set. Rather than cardboard, I reinforced the bottoms of the figures with plastic canvas.
Damian and I made this sock snowman together. In the background is the afghan my daughter crocheted for her best friend for Christmas. Sophia decided to get back into crochet and quilting this year and has taught herself knitting as well. Her WIPs are beginning to rival mine in number. 

On Christmas Eve, I stayed up till after midnight to make this loom-knitted hat for my ex-husband as he was coming for dinner and I didn't want him to not have a Christmas gift. 
I finished his scarf on New Year's Eve, without having to stay up late. It's still on the blocking mat. The odd thing was when I washed it before blocking, the blue colour ran. I washed it on the delicate cycle in cold water with my other delicates and a couple of previously white items are now slightly bluish. And this was Red Heart Super Saver = 100% acrylic! I can't figure that one out... 

Also, during the course of the year, I discovered Sophie's Universe, though she's still a work in progress. 
Other works in progress include the Feileacan Shawl for my daughter 
the knitted train cardigan for my grandson,
the Happy Holidays Tree Skirt (just have to finish the motifs, work in the ends and sew them on and this one's finished),
the Ocean Breeze Tote,
the Sweet Dreams quilt, 
and the Evening Snowfall quilt.

I updated my Ravelry account and found I have 9 WIPs, plus at least a couple that I haven't added yet. And that's not including all my quilting WIPs. So my New Year's Resolution is to complete my WIPs before starting any new ones, or buying more yarn or fabric. Of course, I have to allow for projects for special events like births, weddings and anniversaries...
Happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Nativity Set for Damian

Most nativity sets are not very child-friendly, easily broken or damaged. And I suppose there are some people who might consider it irreverent to allow a child to play with a nativity set. But I have a 3-year-old grandson and I want him to experience the joy and reality of salvation, including Jesus' willingness to be born in a stable for you and me. So, when I saw this Nativity Scene to sew and stuff at Fabricland a couple of years ago, I decided to purchase it for my grandson. I have to admit that I don't always get things done as soon as I would like to, but this year I decided to haul this out and stitch it up. 
I made it totally kid-friendly and as indestructible as possible. The instructions said to put cardboard in the base of the figures, but you just never know when there might be a flood and the cardboard would end up mushy (especially with a 3-year-old in the house, or even a sometimes klutzy grandma). So I used plastic canvas instead. The stable background is lined with 2 layers of polyester fleece with plastic canvas sandwiched in between. This was made according to the instructions, however, if I had to do it over again, I would use polyester fibrefil batting instead of the fleece. Fleece stretches too much. Besides, no one said that the stable was insulated. :-) 
If you're interested in making a set like this, it's the Nativity Scene, one of the "Keepsake Crafts," VIP by Cranston, copyright 2006. I've seen it on ebay, but it's a lot more expensive than what I paid at Fabricland. 
I also have a couple more Christmas projects in my fabric stash: another one for Damian,
a soft quilted book on the Nativity. I just want to point something out that is a pet peeve of mine. Note that this panel says, "He was born in a manger." No, Mary did not climb into the manger to give birth. He was born in a stable (or some version thereof appropriate to the place and time) and she "wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger." Luke 2:7. End of rant.
The other is a full panel of the nativity scene to use as a wall hanging.
These last two are not likely to get stitched up in time for this Christmas, however. Too many other projects on the go. Perhaps next year. 
Wishing everyone the peace and joy that comes from serving the Saviour who was born on that long ago night in Bethlehem. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Must be Crazy

As I was driving into the city for the second time today, I couldn't help thinking, "I must be crazy." No, not because I was heading into the city for the second time in one day (although that may not be considered entirely sane), but because I was taking along my 3-year-old grandson, Damian, and my 9-year-old great nephew, Richmond, on a trip in which I planned to go to Michael's and Fabricland. Not exactly places to which you normally take little boys. Sure I was going to Home Depot first, but that was just to drop off the nailer we had rented on the first trip in that didn't work. More about that in another post. 
I grew up in a family of girls - 6 of us with only one brother. I had only had one child, my daughter Sophia, so dealing with little boys is not something I have a great deal of experience with. And here I was taking two of them to stores that are more traditionally women's turf. And definitely not children's turf. And then there were the more practical things like how was I going to manage going to the bathroom? 
It started when my niece's husband came over to install my baseboard with Richmond in tow. Richmond is old enough to stay out of his father's way while he was working, but Damian is not, yet he wanted to be where Richmond was. I couldn't be downstairs watching him as I wanted to return the non-working nailer and make the most of the second trip by visiting Michael's and Fabricland. Sophia had a friend visiting, so she didn't want to have to sit downstairs in the "construction zone" to monitor her son. Damian is almost always game to go wherever Grandma goes, so he was willing to come with me, but wanted Richmond to come along. After getting permission from Richmond's father and making sure he had a jacket on, we headed out on the road. And it wasn't till we were well on our way to the city that I realized what a crazy thing I'd done. It was as I was listening to the interesting noises emanating from the back seat. Those were definitely not little girl noises... 
In spite of my trepidation, the trip went well. At Michael's, Richmond decided he wanted some yarn, so I asked him if he wanted to learn to crochet. After receiving an affirmative response, I let him pick out some yarn and I selected a crochet hook for him. Crocheting lessons coming up... Damian, of course, couldn't be left out, so I allowed him to select a skein of yarn as well, even though I've already given him a ball of yarn and a hook. So nice of Michael's to be having a sale on Red Heart Soft yarn, exactly the yarn called for in the pattern for October's Fair Isle Crochet Cowl. Here's my haul from Michael's. 
The yarn on the left is for the cowl. The purple variegated is the one Damian selected and the Red Heart Super Saver in fiesta is Richmond's. Now I need to find a single skein beginner project for Richmond to start on. 
Fabricland was our final stop. Let me explain the purpose behind this particular Fabricland visit. A couple of friends at work have been admiring my quilts and wanting to learn how to quilt themselves. Initially, I was going to invite them over once I get my studio finished. But then I got to thinking that there may be others who would like to learn. I remember I looked for a quilting class in town way back when I wanted to learn and ended up having to learn from books and magazines. So I decided to see if there would be interest in a class. I contacted our local "Learning Network" and offered my services as a quilting instructor. Now I have to draw up a proposal outlining the materials needed, how much I would charge, how many nights, etc. So I figured I needed to start by designing an appropriate quilt for a beginner and then making it. I actually decided to make two samples. For the first sample I decided to use some fabric from my stash as the feature fabric and bought some coordinating fabrics at my LQS. Here's the fabric for the first quilt:
The fabric on the left is the feature fabric, Snowflake Stripe by Michael Miller. The other fabrics are Michael Miller as well. While at the LQS, I finally decided to break down and purchase an annual membership. It's rather expensive, $100, but it gives you 40% off everything all year, even on most sale items. I calculated I need to purchase $250 (pre-discount) worth of fabric and supplies to pay for the membership. I plan to keep track to determine if the membership is worthwhile. With the increased exchange cost on the Canadian vs. US dollar, I won't be buying as much online. And trips to the city can get costly in both time and money as well. 
So back to my trip to Fabricland... In the latest flyer, they had some animal prints on sale and I wanted to do the second quilt where I fussy-cut the feature squares. So I wanted to see if these animal prints would work. Unfortunately, my closest Fabricland did not receive any of these prints. But they did have some other ones on sale for a couple of dollars/metre more. I opted for an African animal print. I'm hoping the other two prints look sort of "African native." And the third embroidered fabric just more or less coordinated with the two prints. 
I also picked up some serger thread in bright colours as I want to use them to edge the samplers I made in my machine quilting class.
By the time I was paying for my purchases, Richmond and Damian were starting to get on each other's nerves and Damian was getting a little hyper as he was overdue for a nap. Once on the road back home again, he was asleep within 5 minutes. 
While I was taking these pictures, my grandson wanted to get in on the act and was quite enjoying piling the yarn on his lap. Then I sat him in the chair with the animal print in the background and the other fabrics on his lap. He was quite happy with that, but got rather tearful when I took him out to take a shot without him. He has decided that that fabric is his, especially the animal print. So he's back in the chair with the fabric. I also got out the Go Wild quilt to see if he'd take that instead, but he just wanted that added to the pile.
He's now contentedly making animal noises in the chair with all the fabric and the quilt. I guess when the new quilt is not being used as a sample in class, it will likely be his quilt. Unless I can convince him to take a dinosaur quilt instead. My LQS has a kit with a dinosaur panel and 6 - 1/2 metres of coordinating fabric. He really loves dinosaurs and I was thinking of making him a twin-sized quilt for his bed out of that. 
Meanwhile I finished the Entrelac Crochet Cowl a week ago. It calls for a 4 (worsted) weight yarn, but I was in Michael's and they had Loops and Threads Charisma yarn, a 5 (bulky) weight on sale and I was inspired by the Bouquet colour. So I decided to give it a try in this pattern. Since Entrelac uses single crochet, it is pretty dense and stiff, especially with the bulky yarn. I was hoping that rinsing it would soften it up, but when I took it out of the washing machine, it was almost plank-like. LOL! Here it is being blocked.
After sewing up the seam, I tried it on and snapped some pictures.
It's a rather long cowl and the pattern showed it wrapped around the neck twice. 
This is definitely a warm cowl - see my glasses steamed up - and I joked about it being able to double as a cervical collar in case of whiplash. Hopefully, the stiches will relax more after several washings. My daughter suggested that I try fabric softener, but that can also "bulk up" fabric, so I opted not to try that. Here's a close up of the stiches.
That's all for now. The good news is the renovations to my "studio" are almost finished. I need to hang the pegboard on the wall and the window casing needs to be done. But I can already start moving the furniture in. I will share more about the renovation process in another post.