Hemming Handwovens…

I recently spent an amazing week attending the Basics Class at Vavstuga Weaving School. In the class, we learned so much about looms, fibers, drafting, project planning and we completed four projects. And now I’m hemming them. This is the hand towel I wove.The warp is cottolin and the weft is linen.

Everything at Vavstuga is handwoven and here are the hand towels that were in the bathroom all week for our use.

Everything! Meals were served in the lovely diningroom with this (rainy) view of the Deerfield River…

… and at each meal, different cloths were spread down the middle of the table. Every day we had different woven napkins to use too!

This is the small tablecloth I wove with cotton and cottolin. One thing I was anxious to learn about was how to use a temple. What is a temple? The wooden bar along the front of the weaving area is one and it is used to get nice straight selvedges. I have hemmed it and it’s waiting to be washed.

Here are some of the fibers and colors that we were able to use for our linens….it is a color lover’s paradise.

The third project was a throw made of wool warp and weft. It was fringed on the last morning and here it is waiting to be washed and fulled. Many, many years ago I wove with wool a lot but now that we live in the South, it doesn’t appeal. Too hot; too fuzzy!

This is the other colorway for the throw. Cutting off the pieces is Becky Ashenden, the owner and founder of Vavstuga Weaving Studio. In all my years of taking weaving classes, I have never met anyone like her. She has been weaving her whole life and has endless samples and knowledge to share. No question went unanswered and each mistake was met with “Oh good – let me show you how easy it is to fix this!”.

Here is what we referred to as “the block weave”. The warp is natural linen which is such a dark beige color, so I chose magenta linen to brighten it up. It was so enjoyable weaving the blocks in a damask pattern.

Here it is hemmed and ready to use. (The colors above are more like the original.)

On Friday morning we had our class photo taken with all the projects cut off the looms and ready to go home with us. It was a great group and it’s always so good to be with “your own kind”! Becky is on the right and not in the picture are the rest of the Vavstuga gang – Kim, creator of delicious meals, Bettie, the office manager and someone I so enjoyed talking with, and Tonya, former apprentice and jack of all trades in the store and studio.

I could go on and on about all the we did and learned and shared, but you get the idea. For more about this amazing experience, please check out this post by Kerry of Lovethosehandsathome.  She made me want to find out more about Vavstuga and the wonderful Becky. And I encourage you to do the same!
























Orphan Block Quilt – – – Finally Finished

I certainly do not win awards for finishing projects in a timely fashion! After starting to quilt The Orphan Block Mash Up quilt, I quickly lost interest and it sat under my Sweet Sixteen machine for months. Languishing… it was started over a year ago. Fast forward to the present : I have a growing stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, so I have spent the last two weeks getting it done.

I am not thrilled with it. My quilting is not great so I will not be showing you a close-up. But as I have told students in the past, you can quilt samples or practise on “the real thing” and I chose to do the latter. Most people viewing the quilt in my hallway are not quilters, so they will not scrutinize my work. And if I can keep my tongue in my head and not say “Gee, the quilting is not very good”, I am sure they will admire it. (Sorry for the poor photo – I have no walls big enough to hang a quilt and get away from it to photograph, so it was on the floor and I was on a ladder!)

I must say that I am always amazed when I wash a quilt. It looks so much better and you really have to look closely to see the quilting at all; there’s just a nice texture.

Now that it is done, I can get on with the next project and learn some more.

A Dyed Garment – Ripped From the Catalogs!

I have been doing some dyeing, over the last few days and having lots of fun. Many of the projects I worked on did not come out as I had hoped, but this knit top “ripped from a catalog” is a winner. I had some ideas about what to do with a knit top I bought from Dharma Trading Company, but when I flipped through a catalog the other night, I found the perfect (and perfectly simple) design. I’ve been working on some examples of shibori and tie dye for the neighborhood ladies’ craft group. Tie dyeing is loads of fun, but perhaps not so wearable for us older ladies… Shibori techniques, on the other hand, can be quite elegant and examples of them are in all sorts of stores. This pattern is so easy; it’s the classic spiderweb (perhaps called kumo in Japanese?) and I always enjoy it. Here it is all tied up.

And here is the front….

And a side view…

And the back.

The color couldn’t have been simpler! It’s PRO Chem MX Fuchsia 308. I dribbled it into the pan until I liked the tint and submerged the t-shirt. The fact that it looks so nice on my mannequin means it won’t fit me now (she’s a size 10) but it’s a good Summer goal for me. ;-D



A Kitchen for a Quilter*

Last post, I shared one side of the unfinished kitchen. Now I can share the almost completely finished kitchen and complain a bit more about the old one.

What really drove us mad about cooking side of the kitchen was the glass cooker top! Hate, hate, hated it! Discovering that we could get a gas line installed to the house started this whole project. Once Peter got the permits done, we bought a new gas cook top, and a new wall microwave/convection oven and oven. As you can see, the old appliances were black. Ugh. I’m not a clean freak, but I do like white or stainless in the kitchen. It looks sleek and clean. My other huge problem was the microwave oven and exhaust fan over the cooker top. The fan did little but wush the air somewhere and the oven was so low that I was nervous when I used the enormous canning pot. And the microwave was so old that it did not have a plate to rotate the food.

So pleased to see them gone! We do not have space for an exhaust fan to pull the air up, so we chose a downdraft unit to pull the air into the crawl space. There were some challenges getting it in, including making the drawers under the cooktop a lot shallower, but it is worth it. Gas is so wonderful to cook on and so hot – I had forgotten and nearly burned dinner the other night.

Another little detail that always aggravates me in a kitchen, is the lack of shelves. I know some people who own a handful of cookbooks but I am not one of them! I have cookbooks all over the house. (And check out this kitchen view with the dark brown glass tiles and the ugly off white Corian counters. Ugh!)

My idea was to build a bookcase at the end of the island. The kitchen designer suggested glueing one of the cabinet doors shut and inserting a black set of shelves that would coordinate with the black molding on the cabinets. Though we lost a lot more cabinet space, I am delighted with the new bookcase. (Which houses my most used cookbooks…)

And here is a “beauty shot” of the sink and the new glass inserts in what was the “black hole” cupboard. And how about my apple core backsplash? Is it not wonderful?

The whole project took three weeks. It seemed like forever but when we admire our sparkling update, we feel like we have a brand new kitchen.

Apple Core Kitchen!

We are in the midst of a kitchen re-do! So far it’s been 10 days of figuring out what to make for dinner using an electric fry pan, a rice cooker and a barbecue. This is a dream come true for me, so I’m really not complaining.

Though most people in the neighborhood thought it was a perfectly good kitchen, here is a before shot for you to judge. You can see the {classic} cherry cabinets, the {ugly} off white Corian counter and the {silly} brown glass tiles. I wasn’t a big fan of the black cupboard either.

I prefer the “Demolition Day” photo. No tile, no beige counter and the middle panels of the black cabinet have been cut out and frosted glass will be installed.

When we started the process, we needed to choose what surfaces we wanted; granite, tile, quartz. The man at the kitchen place ushered us into the room with all the countertop samples where we looked at a bewildering number of pieces. And then he had us pick some tiles that coordinated. We went home that day with samples of a very dark granite and some lovely, sparkly, expensive glass tiles. Though it was a striking combination, it didn’t seem right for our rather traditional house with the lovely cherry cabinets. After a few frustrating days of driving to the kitchen place and home, I had an epiphany – after watching all the renovation shows on TV and planning so many quilts, I realized that the important part was the tile backsplash. That is the pow that you see coming into a kitchen. After I explained my thinking to Peter, he very cleverly commented that for me, the backsplash tile was “the quilt” and the countertops were “the borders”. The kitchen man thought we were speaking in tongues, but after that, the search was easier.

Though I think the cherry cabinets are beautiful, trying to choose colors that complimented them and weren’t too beige was a trick. Bringing the samples home to look at them in the bright light of the morning sun and the dark afternoons was essential. It still took me some time; the tile showrooms are sensory overload even for someone who loves patterns as I do.  One tile pattern I loved and brought home looked like it was designed from one of the floors in the Vatican and cost $36 per 8″ sheet! And a granite piece I liked in the 4″ sample size, turned out to have a hideous overall pattern when I checked it out online. Yesterday the countertops were installed and – whew – am I relieved that we like them…

You must be wondering about the title of this post and here it comes – – – take a look at the very wonderful apple core shaped tiles I found! {For you non quilters, this is an antique apple core quilt that you can admire or buy on eBay.} The carpenter from the kitchen place is none too happy about installing them, but I am thrilled to bits.


Finally A Finished Quilt Top!

@#%*?&#! And whew! Piecing the Jack’s Chain quilt took way longer than I planned. I certainly let other projects get in the way of finishing this top, but happily it is mostly done.

One thing slowing me down, was that the thread on my sewing machine began breaking again. I threaded and re-threaded and re-threaded the machine. I wound a new bobbin, or two! I tried different threads. I changed the needles several times. And finally, I went out and bought Dual Duty thread!!!!!! I am a bit of a purist and I like to sew with cotton thread on cotton fabrics, but I have run out of patience. The threads are breaking in between the chain sewing I am doing. I would say it was the quality of the thread, but as I said, I did try several brands. The bottom thread still seems to be breaking between the chaining, but the Dual Duty on the top is holding. Any ideas on why that might be happening?

I have declared that the top is done. I cannot make myself sew one more nine patch square at this point, so the nice pattern will only be on the center on the bed. (I cropped the picture above so that it looks like the pattern covers the whole bed.) I have had it on and off of the guest room bed the last few days and it just looks stupid – like a project half done. So instead of a bed quilt, I will finish it as a lap quilt. Now I just need to decide on borders.

And here is a close-up of some of the squares. The nine patches are mostly bright hand dyed fabrics, though I did add some of my batik stash. I’m relieved to have made the decision to down-size it and it certainly will be easier and faster to quilt. I will add it to the big stack of tops to be quilted!


A Little Project for Valentine’s Day

I live in a wonderful neighborhood! We are far enough away from “stuff”, that we do a lot of things together. I recently started a craft group that meets once a month, for those who are inclined. One month I will be showing them a project and the next they will bring something of their own to work on. I kicked off the year with counted cross stitch – but – cross stitch on perforated paper! I started to make samplers for baby gifts on the paper many years ago when I saw a framed sampler in an antique store. This article in Victoriana magazine on the history of using paper says that it was done as early as the mid 1800’s!

You do need to hold the paper carefully, but other than that, it is the same as using fabric.

Perforated paper

I colored in some heart patterns for Valentine’s Day and copied them off. I think the thread stitched on paper look so special.

Perforated paper cross stitch

And then because so many ladies decided to come, I went to Hobby Lobby to buy some more paper. In the cross stitch aisle, I found a lot of interesting items with perforated holes, including a tiny box! What a cute little gift for someone on the 14th. Most of the group decided to do something with the box and then I discovered that there was room for 10 stitches…which meant the hearts could not have one point and be stitched in the center…

Tiny perforated paper box

So we fussed around with the colored pencils and graph paper, and finally discovered that if 4 tiny hearts were arranged symmetrically, asymmetrically, it would look perfect! (two empty stitches on the left side, three on the right…)

Heart pattern

It was a fun morning and I know a lot of ladies are finishing up their teeny, tiny projects.

P.S. Look what’s blooming today!

First daffodils