Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, God Jul, Joyeux Noel

Aside from some small gifts, I've never done much Christmas quilting.  This year I did--even if it's just a good sized wall hanging [for our front door].

If I were to do it over, I would have just appliqued the script--except for the Gloria in Excelsis Deo--It was stitched four or five times with Fil-Tec Glide thread, and I like how it turned out.  But the other phrases would probably have been better if they were appliqued.

I combined some very traditional feather borders with more modern fills.  All the work was done on my vintage treadled Necchi.

I hope all who read this are enjoying a happy, blessed Christmas season.

Happy quiltmaking....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Knitting Socks...and Wearing Them Out

I knit my first pair of socks five or six years ago.
Today this pair wore out. They were probably the third pair I made--and my only all violet pair.  I'll have to check my stash for more violet yarn.

I think this was one of two pair I made with Tofutsies yarn.  I do have more skeins of Tofutsies, but, clearly, I'm going to have to reinforce the toes next time.  Wondering what other knitters use to reinforce toes [and heels?].

If I hadn't just placed an order with Knit Picks,  I'd be sorely tempted to order even more  yarn.

I don't know if it's worth the effort to try to re-knit these toes with left over yarn.

Undoubtedly, part of the reason these wore out so quickly was because when I first began knitting socks, I knew nothing about negative ease.

Ah, well.

Happy quiltmaking...and knitting...and merry making....

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Is A-Comin'

Sweet College Girl gasped when she walked into our home.

 I've been looking for an acceptable "skinny tree" for years.  I found this one on sale at Target.  Then I spent hours last weekend rearranging furniture and decorating it.
(The angel on top of the tree is not tipsy--bad camera angle.)

I also made some adjustments to our fireplace mantel.  I purchased the Welcome sign months (years) ago, planning to place it above the clock, only to discover there was not enough room.  Last weekend it occurred to me that I could just mount it on the front of the mantel. I love these pitchers so much that I just couldn't bring myself to replace them with Christmasy stuff, so the urns with winter branches will have to do--along with a teeny-tiny band of clay angels from Central America.

One of the things I love about putting up a Christmas tree is the collection of memories that accompany the ornaments.
 The fish came from China on my first visit there.  The ornament on the right was purchased in Gallup when I first lived there about 25 years ago.  And the snowman, finished in 1977, was my first attempt at counted cross-stitch, actually begun about five years earlier.  I remember asking myself at the time why I ever thought counted cross stitch would be fun.  Of course, the lesson was that one should not learn to do it by stitching a white snowman on 22-count hardinger.  By the time the ornament was finished, I'd stitched many, many other projects!

 These cloisonne ornaments are part of a set of three--I wish had had many more.

 And this sweet little bird nest has adorned trees for close to 30 years.  It was a gift from Mrs. Chandler when I lived in Cleveland, Tennessee.

 This little snow guy was just too heavy to hang on the tree, so he's standing nearby.  He looks like he's ready to give someone a hug! (The extra ornament hangers and light bulbs are in the porcelain box.)

Cozy corner for knitting and reading.  I may hide the cords with another basket or something.

Despite how laden the tree is, I actually couldn't find the box of ornaments we used last time, so these were picked out of several boxes.  I used to put up several trees--when I had a much bigger house.  This may be the only one we put up this year.

Reminder:  This is the time of year to buy remote switches that can be used year round.  I purchased two, but one won't connect properly, so I'm hoping they'll still have some when I try to exchange it.

I hope  your holiday preparations and activities are going well.

Happy quiltmaking, knitting, etc.,

Friday, December 6, 2013

On the Needles--and Shocking Weather

My cobalt blue scarf went from this ...

to this....
It became clear that it was just too wide--and it looked like I might run out of yarn, so I ripped it out, cast on half as many stitches, and started over.

I've also done some test swatches from some knitting worsted that, hopefully, will become my own legwarmers.  Haven't decided on a pattern yet.  (I added just a few stitches to the sweater that will not be done by Christmas.)

The news here, as in much of the rest of the country, has been the weather.  (I do realize I sound like an old farmer.)

Last week I picked up this new shovel.  Pricey, perhaps, but oh, my, does it ever take the work out of shovelling.

I also had to pick up new boots--so these must be in honor of my dad and grandpa too.  Great tread, warmer than the ones they wore, and, best of all, there's no manure in sight!
 The clerk who sold me the shovel warned me that snow can get very heavy and that it's a big shovel.  I assured him that I can choose how much snow to put it in at once.  Yesterday I shoveled my driveway and that of a couple of neighbor ladies--several times.  There is no way I could have done that without an ergonomic shovel--and I love the double handles.

I watched the temperature plummet last night--it was 0.9 F when I went to bed; it was -9 when I went out to shovel and warm the car this morning.  I went a little over ten miles, called work, and came back home.  Later today I learned that the overnight low was -17%.  I don't much like it when our little town sets records--or, in this case, has the lowest a.m. temperature in the state.  The trade-off was that the trees were gorgeous--and it appears it was all hoar frost rather than ice--but I didn't take any pictures.--Too preoccupied with not freezing and with staying safe.  How long 'til spring?

I'm going to try to link to Judy L's On the Needles linky for this week.

Happy quiltmaking,...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Knitting Off the Needles

This girl...

 came home for Thanksgiving.  Today after church we visited a friend in the hospital, enjoyed soup in bread bowls for lunch--and she enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa, but passed on the specially made marshmallows, before we headed back to her college.

I managed to finish knitting her legwarmers before she went back.

 She agreed to model them for photos.  I just combined a variety of patterns so I wouldn't get too bored.
She's happy with the colors she chose.  I just hope she actually wears them so her legs stay warm!

This is her bookshelf.  Her notebooks have to be placed in the order of her classes.  She amazes me.

She has two weeks before she gets to come home.  I have to say she's changed a lot since leaving for college.

Happy quiltmaking,...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tutorial: Dolly's Little Basket Blocks

This tutorial is for my grandmother's Little Basket Blocks, which finish to 6 inches. {Several dozen photos ahead.}

Today these are most often referred to as Stamp Baskets, because they appeared as a set of four on a U.S. postage stamp in the late 1970's.  I've seen at least a couple of other variations referred to as Stamp Baskets.  We are making sets of four 6-inch [finished] blocks.  Some on-line friends and I have decided to piece these on our PPMs [People-Powered Machines].  Of course, it is possible to make these on machines with tails [electric machines], but treadling and hand cranking are just soooo much fun--and keeps those marvels of 19th and 20th century engineering and manufacturing doing what they were created to do.

Since I awoke to this this morning,...

it's the perfect time to stay inside, stay warm, sew, take photos, and write.  (Yes, the depth of the snow increased, making me so very happy that I do not have to drive to work! Since my church is 20 miles away, it seemed wise not to attempt that trip either.)

I did begin with a plan and recorded it in my journal:

Please come along and piece with me.  In the comments section below, I'd love to hear from everyone who joins us.

We need to cut these pieces as stated and shown above, plus a blue piece of bias two inches wide and long enough to form a handle with plenty left over. (Please note that the reason the tips of the triangles are missing on some of these triangles is that they were cut from a strip of fabric with a triangle ruler.)

 I'm piecing on a Necchi BU from the early 1950s set into 1919 treadle irons. When I piece on vintage machines for which I do not have a 1/4" foot, I just use a quilting ruler lined up with the needle on the 1/4 inch line, making sure the ruler is parallel to the stitching line and the left end of the machine if it has a rectangular bed, and then scootch multiple pages of a Post-It note pad next to the ruler to guide my fabric.

First, we fold our strip of bias and sew the cut edges together with a 1/8" seam.  Of course, you may choose another width, but if you use a strip that is wider, it may be best to cut it to the shape and size you prefer and applique it in a more traditional way.

I did not press the folded edge because this fabric was just a bit stiff to begin with, and I wanted it to cooperate when I was ready to applique.

2. We fold our 6 inch background triangle in half so that it's "legs" are aligned...

and finger press the center, being careful not to distort the fabric since this is a bias edge. It can be helpful to lightly finger press that outer corner too.

3.  We're going to mark the path for handle placement. I'm using an empty plastic jar (the kind in which I usually store my quilt basting pins).

 This particular jar has the added bonus of having a molding mark that I can place on the fold I finger pressed. [The diameter of this jar is 3.25 inches.  I'm not sure how important it is that someone use the same size circle and same width handle.  I'm thinking part of the charm of these blocks will be that each set will have some slight variation in the handles.]

 4.  Mark the jar's circumference.  I used a water erasable blue pen, but a fine lead pencil would work as well.  (The line will be under the bias handle, so it won't be visible.)

5.  Next we place the seamed edges of the bias against the marked line, ease it into a curve, and stitch it down.

 If we stitch just a hair to the left of the previous stitching, no stitches will be visible when we are done.

 We do need to be careful not to distort the background while we are stitching.

7.  We trim off the extra bias strip, leaving a bit of excess at the end.

8.  We finger-press the basket handle toward the corner of the block.  Yes, we could use an iron.  [I didn't.] At this point a) we can top-stitch the outer edge of the handle, demonstrating the beautiful, even stitching of our antique and vintage machines; b) we can secure the outer edge with a narrow zig zag if we have a machine with that capability, or a zig zag attachment; or, c) we can hand applique that edge.

 I chose the latter, so I got out my antique silver thimble that a sweet lady in Tennessee gave me when my grandmother'silver thimble disappeared.

 I threaded a size 8 or 9 between [because that's what I had]; some people prefer sharps.  I ran 10-14 inches of thread over a chunk of beeswax.  Hint: most often we try to match our thread to the appliqued piece.  A single ply of high-quality embroidery floss run over beeswax is quite strong and can get us a closer match.  (I used a much lighter thread, hoping to be able to show more detail in the photos.)

 I wrapped the thread around the needle three times [tip of thread facing the eye of the needle], held the "wrappies", and pulled the needle through for a nice sized knot.

 I brought the needle up about 1/2 inch from the triangle edge, through both layers of fabric.

 One of the tricks to nearly invisible applique is to put the needle back into the fabric perpendicular to the spot where it came up through the applique, and then bring it back up through both layers of fabric about 1/8th inch to the left.

 Despite the much lighter colored thread, these stitches are nearly invisible.

 With a little tug after every three stitches or so, they become even less visible.  The trick when tugging is to be careful not to distort the background triangle.

 We continue until the applique is done and knot off on the back (about 1/2 inch from the triangle's edge).

 9. I pressed with steam.  Some people believe steam will distort the fabric and would never use it.  (I was careful.)

 We can see there was very little distortion.  However, there was enough to justify doing the applique on a larger triangle.

10. Our next step is to align the triangle ruler with the bias edge and trim ever so slightly.

If our finger-pressed bias line to the outer corner has disappeared, we can finger press it again.

We want this triangle to finish to a four and one-half inch size, so it needs to be trimmed to five inches (taking care to have the handle centered on the long diagonal side of the triangle).

 11.  Next we layer the appliqued triangle on top of the largest basket triangle.

12.  When we have them perfectly aligned, we take them back to the sewing machine and sew our scant 1/4 inch seam on the longest side.

13.  Once the seam is sewn, we lay the pieces with the basket fabric on top, and finger press the seam open.

 14. We trim off any little dog ears in the seam allowances.

15.  If we have any doubts at all about the accuracy of our seam allowances, this is the time to be sure that this portion of the basket measures exactly five inches square, because it will need to be 4.5 inches square in the finished block.

16. We align our two small triangles with our small back ground rectangles.

and place right sides together.

We seam across the short sides of the rectangles,

trim off dog ears,

 and seam our new shapes to our main basket square, finger pressing as we complete each seam.

After sewing each side to the larger triangle square, we trim more dog ears.

17. We check to be sure we have that nice junction where the two triangles meet the main part of the basket.

18. We lay the remaining background triangle over the basket base.

and seam so that our needle crosses the previous seams where they joined (which is why the blue basket needs to be on top).

19.  We check the junctions of our seams and trim more dog ears.

 21.  We check to be sure our seams match up at the base of the basket

and that our seams along the edges are crossing 1/4 inch from the edge of the patchwork.

22,  If so, we gently press the finished block and check with a quilt ruler to be sure it measures 6.5 inches so that once it's seamed to other blocks, it will measure six inches square.

23. We also need to be sure that where the seams turned toward the lighter fabric, there is no dark shadowing where the edge of the blue seam allowance managed to be wider than the light seam allowance.  If so, we'll trim that extra blue with some sharp little scissors so we can banish that shadow.

For much of the work on these blocks, I used a triangular Omnigrid ruler that I've had for a couple of decades.  I do not know if it is still being marketed; I haven't seen it in stores, but seldom look. I know there are a variety of other businesses that market similar rulers.  Readers who can recommend triangular rulers are welcome to do so, and I will update this post with their recommendations.

Our group has decided we will each make four sets of four blocks to exchange; some of us will make an extra set to give us a finished collection of 20 six inch blocks.

Since these blocks are so small, we're considering a separate more simply pieced signature block with our name, the machine we used, and where we live.  When that decision is made, I'll post how to do that.

The quiltmakers originating this exchange are members of the Treadle-On community; we sometimes call ourselves "Onions," which is short for "Treadleonians," a title that seemed perfect after it originated in a member's misspelling many years ago.

Fellow Treadleonions can find information about this block exchange HERE. (Some of our Onions may wish to use some alternate techniques, which will be fine as long as the completed block measures 6.5 inches square so it can finish to a 6-inch block once it is set together with other blocks.)               

We are using low volume prints as our back ground.  You can find a post about those HERE.

If other individuals or groups, on-line or off, decide to try these, we'd love to hear from them.

I don't have enough of these blocks done to have them on any design wall except the one in my mind; nevertheless, I'm linking to Judy L's Design Wall Linky over at Patchwork Times

If you wish to leave a comment and are unable to do so, you may e-mail me at 4dscheer [dot] quiltmaker [at] or use the comment form near the top of this page on the right.  If I receive too many spammy comments, I'll just remove the gadget.

Happy quiltmaking.....

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