Saturday, December 25, 2010

The First Noel

Star Over Bethlehem
by Frank Roberts

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I think about you and write to you in my head in odd moments as I dash to the new job, meet with the department head to figure out the next step on the new web page or create a blog entry for the store's Facebook Fan page or develop a full color poster for an upcoming event. I am creating a good part of every day and come home ready to put my feet up. My knitting is progressing, but my quilting? Not so much.

I've been in education for ten years, the public sector. Now I'm in Marketing and Outreach for a grocery store, a Co-op. Not only have I changed jobs, but I've changed careers. It's been eight weeks but I tell myself, it's going to take time, you need to find your niche.

When I was eight years old we moved from Sunny San Diego to north of Boston. Talk about a climate change! That was an adjustment. Also, it seems I was too friendly, didn't know the playground games the girls played and I 'talked funny'. We all spoke English, but we didn't always understand each other. It took a while to learn the way of New Englanders; there's a culture there that's very different from the beaches and Eucalyptus tree lined parks and playgrounds of the west.

It just takes time.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

It's a Block

I found the perfect background during our trip to visit the kids over Thanksgiving. It's P&B Apple Cider, love that little sprig look. The clerk at the fabric store was very complimentary when she saw my piece work. "Wow! Are those paper pieced? Look how even they are, and how flat they lay!" Well I hadn't pieced them into stars, so they hadn't been proven yet.

Y seams - need I say more? I pieced the star and thought I'd reduce bulk by pressing the seams open, but when I went to set in the background square there wasn't any seam allowance to sew to! Return and repeat. I pressed the seams closed, I set the square in again, too low. Ripped it and set it in again, a pucker. After over an hour on the same seam I got it right. They got easier after that. I have 160 Y seams to do, they better get easier!

It was great to 'piece' the block together in PhotoShop to see how it would look, but it's more exciting to actually have the block together.

The Y seams lay flat and there's a quarter inch seam allowance all the way around.

The eight center intersections come together nicely.

And the directional background fabric all goes in the same direction.

However... the pattern says it should measure 22 inches and mine is 21 and three-eighths. We'll see what size the rest turn out. Then I'll know whether to run screaming from the room!

Two Stars From One Color Scheme

I haven't pieced the star diamonds together yet, still piecing a few different color schemes to help me decide what color background to use. Here's the first color scheme laid out. Every star will have the rust orange center, followed by beige, then navy.

I found out the fifth color out of nine creates the largest ring. I don't really like the yellow for the ring, though the red's okay. Wonder what it would look like if I turned the diamonds around?

The yellow is still the fifth color, but I like it better for some reason, maybe I'll piece the fourth star with this in mind. It's interesting to see the different ways the same fabrics can look.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Color Sequence

The idea behind this quilt is to look random, using fabrics that represent the turn of the last century. But I find as I choose fabrics for each star my modern color sensibilities keep creeping in. It's hard not to create a blended color sequence, they're so pleasing. So I have to try and choose contrasting values.

Once I get the sequence figured out I tape down a sample so I have a reference sheet while piecing the strata. Even with this handy visual I still get lost. In each star I'm keeping the first three colors the same, cheddar, beige and navy, so the third sequence on the sheet doesn't have those.

For every star, you piece five strata using five fabrics. In the photo from left to right is strata one, using fabrics 1-5, strata two, using fabrics 2-6 and so on. Strata five is on the right and had been cut into subunits. Once they're pieced you press the seams alternately, the first strata goes up, the second one down and so on.

I thought color four in this diamond would read greener than it does. It looks elongated because I haven't sewn the rows together yet. Even though I've been sketching sequences with color pencils and testing color combination for these stars in Electric Quilt, I still never know what they're going to look like until the eight diamonds come together.

So far I've pieced diamonds but I have pieced the stars yet. I was holding off until I had a good way to store 22" inch blocks flat. But I think I better figure out what background I want and piece a star. I need to test my accuracy on that too. It's a work in progress.

What Can Happen When You're Not Paying Attention

I'm continuing to piece diamonds for Lone Stars. The blue, tan, blue sequence I showed in an earlier post repeats the colors rather than using as many as nine different colors. The instructions tell you to use 20" strips, but you don't use it all. So I must've just cut and pieced merrily along without noticing how many diamonds I made.

At least I found out before I pieced it into place. Look at these quilts at Barbara Brackman's site.

Preemie Beanie

I found some left over cotton yarn on the freebie table and decided to make a small cap for a wee child. Found the pattern here on Ravelry, it's free. I used an apple to help model it. I think I'll donate it to the ICN at the hospital.

When I held it up during show and tell at the quilt guild meeting, the whole room went, "Awww..."

Sunday, November 07, 2010


In September I found red washable merino at the LFS for 50% off. I just had to make something from it! I'd recently joined Ravelry and searched for a cropped cardigan. I found one that needed slight modifying and asked a friend to help me adjust the pattern. Then I cast on for a top down cardi with raglan sleeve shaping. I've been knitting on it for two months and got up to 209 stitches as I worked the fronts, sleeves and back all at once.
The next time I met with my knit friend she pointed out that I was supposed to be working front increases at THE SAME TIME as the raglan sleeve shaping. Yup. I ripped. Six inches worked on size 6 needles. She was so apologetic, she acted like it was some how her mistake. No... I just don't understand knitting patterns that well. So I've put the merino aside and am knitting a cotton preemie cap, worked on size 4 dp needles.

It's a good thing I'm a process person and not a product person. :)

Pacific International Quilt Fest

My LQG offered to provide overnight accommodations at PIQF in exchange for two hours of white glove service. What a great deal!

I have sooo many pictures, I haven't even scratched the surface as I crop, resize and compress, but here are a few of my favorites.

Perle Cotton display

Maui Escape

1900 Lone Star from San Jose Museum collection

Costa Rican Cart

This one was made in honor of the Belgian tiger that was put down at the San Francisco zoo for attacking a visitor after they teased and yelled at her.


Rose of Guinevere

Through Ancient Portals

Natural Wonders, Bernina 1st place award

Guatamalan Cathedrals

L-R: Anne, Reba, Leslie

And when I got tired, I could always go to the Ladies of the Lake opportunity quilt table and take a break. It was an incredible two days. I came home completely saturated with color!

Lone Star Continued

I've been at my new job three weeks, not a lot of sewing going on as a result. This weekend I made time to get into the sewing room, I wanted to get back to my Lone Stars. I have three out of eight diamonds in this color scheme pieced.

I love the way the blues fade in and out. My cutting and piecing has improved since the first few diamonds were pieced, so the diamonds are coming out flat and true.

But this one, what happened to the color sequence?? I must've been too tired. I should've put my feet up instead of making myself try to sew on a Friday night!

She's So Cute When She's Asleep

Spunky is about three months old now. When she's asleep, she's a little sweetheart, when she's awake she's a complete terror. It's been 40 years since I've raised a kitten, I didn't remember this stage! She jumps at shadows, climbs the front of the stereo speaker, tears plants apart and if I try to stroke her, she bites. I know she thinks we're her litter mates and she doesn't mean anything by it. But MAN! knitting has to be done in rare moments when she's not in the room.

I keep the sewing room closed when I'm not in there and when I open the door, she runs from wherever she is in the house and dashes in. I think she's saying, "Playground's open!" I went for a cup of tea and when I came back, my sewing machine was unthreaded and the current patchwork pieces scattered across the table, chair and under the machine. She's always helping! But when she's asleep, what a charmer. I can stroke and scritch her as much as I want.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lone Stars

Like a lot of quilters I collect magazine patterns and instructions into a binder. I have several. Some of the patterns are 'someday' quilts. You know the ones, Mariner's Compass, Russian Sunflower, Broken Star. Will I ever make those? I knew it would take time, effort and energy, just the opposite of my 'no thinkum' sewing. So I decided recently, while I'm between jobs maybe I have the time and energy, maybe today was someday. Here's the first one I came to, I didn't stop to consider whether I 'should' or not. Just DO it!

I went to Electric Quilt 'to begin to start to commence' as we say.

Queen, 94" x 116"

I worked a lot on the color scheme. The colors in the quilt are so soft and beautiful, but I knew I'd never be able to reproduce that, so I chose turn of the last century; indigo and cadet blue, chrome yellow, shirtings, no black or purple, poison green, vintage brown, you get the idea. Drafting blocks in EQ helps.

But EQ drafts can only take you so far, at some point you have to start cutting.

First group

The stars are 22 inches, made from strips cut 1 and 3/8". I decided it would be helpful to stablize the fabric to minimize stretching, so I starched the strips after they were cut.

The first unit is pieced from fabrics 1-5, the second, 2-6, the third, 3-7 and so on. This way you don't have to cut and sew diamonds and worry about the bias edges stretching as you sew.

Trim the strip set at a 45 degree angle.

Then cut eight strips from each strip set.

For each arm of the star you take one strip from each strip set and sew them together. *phew* what a lot of effort!

Once I finished the first arm, I felt like I'd accomplished a whole bunch. But I have to do this how many more times?? I scanned the first arm and 'pieced' the star in Photoshop. I was too impatient to see what it's going to look like.

This is a photo composite, that's why the center is off. Not too bad for two days worth of sewing. Oddly enough, I received a job offer the next day. I begin my new position October 18!

More String X Blocks

I've been piecing a few of these every once in awhile, no plan of action, just enjoying the easy way the blocks come together; but I decided I should figure out how big I wanted to make the quilt. Oh don't bother me with details, I'm just having fun sewing...

I created the block in Electric Quilt and played around with a pieced border.

It's fun, I like it...

... but in the end I decided on a simple, solid black border, it lets the eye rest. This size will also allow the quilt to hang in the kitchen where I rotate wall hangings. My friend Rosy saw the blocks and said it looks like Black Licorice and Jellybeans. I think that's a great name for it!

Shampooing An Eight Week Old Kitten

Spunky had fleas, but all the literature said not to use flea powders or collars on a kitten less than 10-12 weeks old. At the same time, the literature (Googled kitten care) also said fleas can cause anemia in young kittens. Dilemma, do I try to shampoo her? I prepared for the worst, imagining all sorts of yowling, scratching, clinging to everyone and everything within reach in shear terror. I filled the kitchen sink with a few inches of tepid water and braced for battle. This is what happened.

It was a non-event, she was completely docile as I wet her down, rubbed soap into her fur and used a ladle to rinse.

9 weeks

A good rub with a warm towel and a comb through and she was free of fleas and smelling like the dawn. I've had a number of cat owners tell me some cats grow up liking their bath. I had no idea.