Monday, December 30, 2013

A Very Quilty Christmas

It's so wonderful to have a hobby obsession for your loved ones to focus on at times when gifts are exchanged. This year my Christmas presents focused very heavily on quilting. It feels a bit like bragging, but one of the ways I use my blog is to remind myself of things. My loved ones know I don't have the greatest of memories and I want to be able to look back and see what I got for Christmas this year and who gave them to me. If you stick with me to the end of this post I plan to share one of my goals for 2014 and how this blog will change.

I got some curved safety pins, a tool for opening safety pins, needles, and storage drawers (not shown) from my parents. My sister got me a set of 50 colored pencils. This one may not immediately be obvious as a quilting notion, but I'm finding myself sketching quilt patterns by hand a lot. (For those interested in my design methods it depends on the pattern whether I start this way or in EQ7, but my final draft is always done on the computer.)

I got lots of books and magazines. The Quilter's Patchwork Album and Easy Quilting is from my in-laws. The free motion quilting books and a subscription to Love of Quilting is from my parents, and the McCalls Quilting magazine is what happens when your husband gives you permission to buy your own stocking stuffer.

If you remember my Penguins on Parade quilt you'll know that I have love penguins. My husband found this adorable penguin shaped martini shaker. I suspect this will come in very handy on days when I use the seam ripper more than the sewing machine.

And finally my husband got me The Farmer's Wife. This brings me to one of my goals for 2014. I want to improve my piecing skills. I've decided the way to do this is to make the Farmer's Wife quilt next year. There are 111 blocks in this quilt which works out to 2 blocks a week with 7 left over. Some of the blocks are rather simple so I figure those weeks I'll tackle 3 blocks. 

I don't like sharing my goals for the new year. (Don't ask why I like the word goal better than resolution. I know they're the same thing, but goal seems much more attainable.) The reason I'm sharing my Farmer's Wife quilt goal is that I'm going to change my publication layout this year. Currently I publish Wednesdays on knitting and sometime in the weekend on quilting. I'm going to try moving to three posts a week. Miscellaneous Mondays will focus mostly on my other quilting projects, but they're miscellaneous so that I can share other things if I want to. Plus I love alliteration. Wednesdays will remain Work in Progress Wednesdays where I'll still share my current knitting projects. Fridays will now be Farmer's Wife Fridays and I'll show you the blocks I got done that week. 

I know that setting lofty goals sometimes means failing, but I don't like everyone to know when I fail. This is probably why I don't share my new year's goals with anyone other than my husband. I will however share my goals for 2013. This year I wanted to get a quilt pattern on the moda bakeshop (Into the Woods and Prairie Stars Table Runner) and I wanted to be paid for one of my patterns. I have my first pattern up on craftsy and have even been favorited by someone. It's not a sale, but I'm sure it will come sooner or later.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Prairie Stars Mug Rug

Don't you just hate it when you think you have a deadline and it turns out the deadline is really two days earlier? It seems to happen a lot around the holidays. At the beginning of the crafting season you start out with a plan and a schedule then you find out that the party where your gift will be opened is going to be earlier than the 25th. I thought I had until Monday to get these mug rugs finished. Last night I was checking facebook and one of my friends shared that I had a pattern published on moda. Boy was I shocked. Okay, so I knew that my Prairie Stars Table Runner was going to be published this month, but I thought my deadline was Monday. Sorry if you came here yesterday looking for this tutorial.

On the brighter side Moda's new Candy mini-charms make the perfect last minute Christmas gifts when those deadlines come zooming up. Wouldn't these mug rugs be a great gift with a nice variety of warm drink mixes? To make one mug rug you'll need (9) 2.5" squares. I chose to make mine with solids and used two black squares, three yellows, two dark blue, one white, and one light blue.

Set aside your center square (in my case the light blue one) and draw a diagonal line through the center of your light blocks. Match your dark and light blocks (2 yellow with 2 black, 1 blue with 1 white, and 1 blue with 1 yellow.) Sew a quarter inch seam on each side of your line and cut on your line. Press.

You will have four HST units for your corners (In this case yellow and black HSTs.) Cut your center squares (those blue ones) in half diagonally. Match one blue/white unit with a blue/yellow unit with blues opposite each other and sew. Press all of your blocks.

Your pieces should look something like this right now. Trim all of your squares to 1.5" square and sew together. This block finishes at 3" which is great if you're making a miniature quilt, but a little small for a coffee mug so I added some sashing.

 For sashing cut (2) 3.5"x1.5" strips and (2)1.5"x5" strips. Sew short pieces on opposite sides of block and then attach long pieces to remaining edges and trim block to 4.5". I did simple in the ditch quilting around the edge of each square to help the rug lay flat and used some left over binding from my table runner.  I definitely need a little more practice doing bindings on things this small. Since this is such a quick project though I can easily make up some more of these to practice on.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fingerless Gloves

My Christmas projects are at a point right now that I'm very comfortable. (I'm not even sweating the fact that we're getting together with my parents and sister on the 23rd rather than the New Year's gathering I was hoping for.) Unfortunately everything is so close to being finished I can't share pictures of it. Earlier this month I got together with my family to celebrate my mom's birthday. Since I couldn't take the projects I was working on and wasn't going to I decided to cast on these Fingerless Gloves I've been drooling over. I'm using some more Imagination yarn from Knit Picks, this time in the Looking Glass colorway. I will admit that I messed up the cable pattern and had to rip back to restart, but it's such a fast thing that the ripping wasn't really that painful. I probably would have let the mistake stand if I could have figured out what I did so I could duplicate it for it's mate. Hopefully these will be finished by New Year's and then I can turn my attention back to the Green Sweater.

Since Ginny always asks what we're reading when she posts her Yarn Along I've decided to share a picture of the books that arrived in our house last week. I've loved the Cotton Patch Gospel musical for years. If you've never heard of it, Clarence Jordan writes a modern retelling of the New Testament set in rural Georgia. The musical follows the life of Christ, but the books go through most of the New Testament. (Unfortunately Clarence passed away before completing the project.) Some of it is a little dated if you aren't a baptist cotton farmer living in rural Georgia, but it's still a great way to look at the Bible.  I also love the picture created when you lay out all of the books.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Writer's Block Drags On

I've got to learn not to name a quilt after a problem another creative field struggles with. In November I had my quilt top complete, went to a weekend workday hosted by my quilt guild and figured out the pieced backing. Sadly I went to lay the quilt out and discovered that my borders had more waves than the ocean. After ripping off the first border and cutting it according to the center measurement of the quilt rather than the edges (who knew quilt edges could lie) I discovered that the problem lay with the first pieced border I'd done. Originally I used my left over jelly roll strips to make an inner scrappy border, but it turns out my blocks are 7.75" rather than the 8" my border counted on. I've ripped off the first border (it's been put in time out and won't be allowed out until it agrees to play nice in a new project) and have decided to use just the solid border. Thankfully the quilt lays flat now and I was able to baste it pretty easily. My living room is a little cramped so I wasn't able to lay the whole quilt perfectly flat for basting, but I got half of it pinned and then rolled it and moved the other half to the wider floor space. 

Things were starting to look good for this quilt being finished before Christmas and my main machine jammed. I do have a second machine, but it doesn't have a cabinet with a nice flat bed and table to support the weight of the quilt. I'm hoping once my husband looks at the machine he'll figure out an easy fix and I can still use my main machine for quilting this thing. I might yet be able to get it under the tree this year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Knitting

My Christmas projects are getting smaller which makes it harder to share without giving away exactly what I'm making. Since my husband has seen this hat in progress (and pictures of the finished pattern) I can share this gift. A little while ago I ordered some of KnitPicks Imagination sock yarn in Sasquatch. Unfortunately I didn't read the washing instructions before ordering the yarn and didn't find out it's hand wash only until it was here. I don't mind most knit things being hand wash only, but I just can't wrap my head around the idea of hand wash socks. Thanks to Ravelry I found this hat that knits up really quickly. Despite being hand wash only I'm really loving this yarn and its subtle color changes.

My husband requested the hat be long enough to comfortably fold and still cover his whole head. This was my car knitting during Thanksgiving so it might have gotten a little longer than intended. The pattern leaves it up to the knitter to decide how long to make the fold so this could be done with a single skein of sock yarn.

The hat is finished, but in order to keep some surprise in Christmas I'm waiting until the recipients have seen the finished gifts before sharing them here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sioux Prairie Quilt Guild Christmas 2013

This week my quilt guild had our annual Christmas party. It's always one of my favorite parts of the holidays. We have a big potluck, play a few games, and exchange quilt related presents. 
When we arrived there were donuts sitting on our plates. All of us were a little confused and asking if we really wanted to eat a donut at 6:00 at night when we had a potluck of yummy salads and desserts awaiting us. Then we got closer to the tables and discovered that the donuts were really these super cute felt pincushions. Each of us also got a template for a 5" half hexagon! I've been wanting to play with this shape but haven't gotten a template or one of moda's precut hexie packs yet. The best part is that the half hexagon works with charm packs and jelly rolls which is one of the few things I actually have in my stash.

The games were very creative this year. We're a large group and fill several tables so that's how our teams were decided. Everyone had to take a needle and each team was given a spool of thread. We then raced to see which team could get all of their needles on the thread first. The ladies at my table have lightening fast threading abilities and I'm pleased to report we won!  Our prize was a fat quarter and I chose the blue fat quarter in the picture below. For the second game we had to bring a fat quarter to exchange. We got to choose a fat quarter from the basket and had to toss it into a tub a few feet away. You'd think it would be easy, but those fat quarters really catch air when you throw them. Thankfully everyone who missed (including me) got to choose a fat quarter from the basket at the end of the night and I got to bring home the lovely little black and white print.

The evening ended with our gift exchange. Since we're all quilters we wrap our gifts in fabric which is how I got the green fat quarter in the picture above. We drew numbers to decide the order we chose gifts in. From there we could either take a gift from the table or steal one of the gifts that had already been unwrapped. The stealing part is always nerve wracking because if you draw something good you don't want anyone else to take it, and you want your gift to be concerned good enough to be stolen. (I'm pleased to report that the table runner I made was stolen once!) I was nice and picked one of the wrapped gifts and got a great little box bag for carrying all of my tools to workshops/retreats/work nights and a charm pack of Bobbin and Bits. I'm loving this fabric line and I think it might be destined for some play time with my new hexagon template. 

One final note not related to the Christmas party, but still exciting. I recently found OttLite bulbs at JoAnns that fit in a regular lamp! I've wanted an OttLite for a while, but the ones that I can afford if I spend a year's worth of birthday and Christmas money are the "cheap" ugly plastic ones. They'd work okay in a craft room, but I do most of my hand work in our living room where I want something a little more stylish. The light bulbs are a bit pricey at ten dollars a bulb, but that's significantly cheaper than the lamps. It's been really nice having a great light for knitting (haven't done much quilting this week.) This morning while taking pictures for the blog I realized the true value of this light bulb. I'll admit I was feeling lazy today and decided to use my point and shoot camera for pictures instead of setting up my DSLR. I occasionally do this and then use photoshop to make the pictures look good. (I know it's not the best practice, but it's the lazy one.) Because of my awesome new light bulb I didn't need to do any editing on my pictures! If you're trying to figure out how to take good photos in the winter with the crummy light the northern hemisphere gets this time of year (or next June for those in the south) I'd definitely recommend investing in one of these bulbs.

*This post has not been sponsored by anyone. I find it challenging at times to find quality items and when I do I want to share my finds.