A Shawl or Table Runners?

Those of you who are weavers will groan, at my ________________ (stupidity, naiveté’, lunacy, you choose). Perhaps even those of you who don’t will understand why my latest weaving project was a recipe for disaster! 

The Greenville Center for Creative Arts where I volunteer and teach, has a members’ show each year. Last year I submitted a little framed quilt. This year, I decided I would like to submit a handwoven shawl; a lovely lacy one for Summer in the South. Much to my delight, in the May/June issue of Handwoven magazine (which I probably got in April…) I found a project that was perfect for my needs – a Swedish Lace shawl! (It’s what I call a recipe, with all the math and details spelled out.) When weaving was all I did, Swedish lace was one of my favorite pattern families.

Notice the date of said article – – – did I start the project back then? No, I did not. A few weeks passed and I decided that perhaps I should get going. (Part two of the fiasco begins here!) I have a lot of cones of yarn from decades ago that I keep moving around and I decided to use those. After all this time, the labels had fallen off and who knew what the ply was or the fiber content. I thought I’d use a smooth mystery fiber for the warp, it looked about the right size, and weave with the tiny boucle’ mystery fiber.

If you read my posts, you know that I have only woven rag runners for years and years. No threading issues with those; it’s one – two – three – four – repeat. There’s a lot more to a Swedish Lace weave. After the warp was wound on, I drew out the threading on a piece of graph paper. Then I began to thread. There were 330 ends to thread, and then I had to get them 2 per dent in a 10 dent reed. I was so careful!!! I really was.

Of course there were endless mistakes, despite the fact that I was so deliberate. I spent the better part of two days finding and correcting them. Finally everything was as it should have been and happily the tension seemed great and so I started to sample. The tiny boucle’ did not work! I was surprised and disappointed. It was just fuzzy enough that the pattern didn’t show. I tried an even teenier one with the same result. In eyeing the cone of the mystery smooth warp thread, I decided that I had enough of that to use…

Everything went smoothly for several days. And then (yippee!) I finished the first shawl. The deadline for my entry was looming so I decided that I should cut the first shawl off and re-tie the warp for the second shawl. I wanted to make sure that I was happy with the result. (Gizmo was!)

I was not. At first, when I tied the fringe and wrapped it around me, I was ever so happy.

Then I hand washed it several times to get the many years of dust off it and make sure that the fabric would be smooth.

I dried it. I pressed it. And then I wrapped it around the mannequin that I planned to display it on.

I wandered around it. I re-wrapped it. I tried draping it a different way. But still, the lovely lacy shawl of my dreams looked like a hand towel. Or a table runner. Or perhaps napkins? Cotton always blooms when washed and the feel of the fabric had completely changed.

The end of this tale is that I did not submit anything to the show and I am very sorry. The rest of the warp on the loom awaits my decision on how to proceed. The picture below shows what I thought this shawl should be like. It’s the 5 yards of Swedish Lace that I wove when I was a student at the Worcester Center for Crafts. It’s fabulous. The weave is perfect and the warp is a fine, crisp linen. It’s airy and light, wonderfully etherial and drapes beautifully. I can hardly believe that I wove it.

It’s the shawl of my dreams….

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An Exciting Friday Finish!!!

It has been excessively hot and humid here; we’ve had days and days of over 90 degree heat. The gardens are growing away and though it’s time to re-plant some veggies, they don’t need my attention. And of course the weeds are growing too, but oh well. So I’ve been indoors more, working on the Double Nine Patch quilt top. Sewing the squares together on the diagonal means that they get quite large and unwieldy and do not fit on the design board anymore.

Double nine patch sewing

This middle strip is 104″ long and if you are good at geometry, you get that!

Too big for design wall!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I don’t often finish projects, so this is A Red Letter Day. The Double Nine Patch top is nearly done! In looking through my blog posts, I found that I started it last July, so this isn’t a bad finish for me…

Triple Nines!

To complete the top, I need to decide how long the border strips will be, so that the quilt will tuck under our thick new mattress. The color inspiration was the scrap of fabric on the headboard. Though the windows have shutters and don’t need curtains, I plan to make some to break up all the wall space. {And re-paint the walls…}

Triple Nines color inspiration

I actually finished on Thursday and was all set to photograph the quilt on our bed – but – His Nibs was napping and I didn’t want to bother him. ;-D

Gizmo's nap

I’m doing a little happy dance now…

Fiber & Cats

When looking through my digitized slides and photographs the other day, I came across a bunch of silly cat pictures… If you have cat/s, you know that they love fiber and must be in the center of it all, supervising or testing. For you cat lovers, here are some of our kitties over the years including a bit of history of my life creating textiles…

These are the kittens we called Big Boy, Little Boy and Caraway. We brought their mother, who was hugely pregnant, in from our apartment complex parking lot and she had these 3 before we’d even decided what to do! (Kept Caraway, and gave away the other three.) This is vintage 1970’s fiber, showing a latch hooked rug of my own design as well as a wool coiled basket. The basket was appropriated by Sassafrass (below) and never was completed.

Three kittens

And here is the very naughty Sassafrass, who was the first kitten we adopted who survived, sleeping on some wool shawls that were just off the loom. She was the Queen Bee for 19 years! She took it upon herself to nip every kitten we got after her in the ear – a sort of a I-guess-I’ll-let-you-stay marking.

Sassafrass on a shawl

We’ve had many cats who like to sit on the loom on whatever piece is in progress. This is Caraway on my first set of looper rugs. She was always a tiny girl because her mother was so malnourished.

Caraway & looper rug

Basil was one of our dearest cats. He was a stray who wandered to our back door one cold November night and was one of the most affectionate cuddlers we’ve ever had. He is napping on a Peter Collingswood double corduroy rug in progress. Yow – whatever was I thinking??? It was a gorgeous rug but how was I planning to keep it clean with four cats? I made it to replace the latch hooked rug and it only lasted a few years until it was just too catty. (That dragging the rug on new fallen snow business didn’t work for cleaning this rug.)

Basil on double corduroy rug

Widget is sitting on the diningroom table in Shanghai, China (a poor scan of a poor photo!). On the wall behind her is one of my entirely hand-made quilts. The pattern is called nosegay and is a favorite of mine. The plain colors were dyed to match the printed fabrics, which you cannot see. The shiny bits are buttons. Widget was a wonderful cat and was good company for me (along with Schminky) when we lived in Asia. She lived in three counties and three states and spent 17 years with us.

Widget

Jasmine just likes to be in the middle of whatever project I am working on.

Jasmine quilting

Gizmo is  more of an equipment and procedure guy. He likes to get in things and sleep in them. This is a rug hooking frame!

Gizmo framed!

He also likes to make sure that I get my dyeing recipes done correctly and clean up well after I’m done.

Gizmo dyeing

This last picture has nothing to do with fiber, but I had to include it. This is Kascha, our only dog, sleeping with Schminky, her best friend. Schminky grew up with Kascha and we were fairly sure that she thought she was a dog. Kascha would run after the frisbee and Schminky would run after her and they would end up in a flying heap as Kascha tripped over her. Most nights they slept together. It was a sad day for Schminky and Peter and I when we had to give Kascha up before we moved to Asia. Schminky was never quite the same.

Kascha

I know many of you have animal helpers and couldn’t manage without their aid. I hope you’ll add a comment or link to your post of animals and fiber in your life.

Ongoing Quilt Projects

I have been less than diligent about working with my wonderful Sweet 16 machine… I started Tommie Lee Turkey in November nad quickly abandoned the project due to Santa making and indecision about what to quilt where. And so the machine sat. The other day I was re-organizing a studio closet and came across my quilt-tops-to-be-quilted pile. I’m not sure if I ever wrote about finishing up the Orphan Blocks Mash-Up quilt. I decided that this was the quilt I needed to practise on and quickly got it layered and pinned.

Ready to quilt Orphans Block Mash-Up

Years ago I was teaching a friend to hand quilt. She was really frustrated with her stitches. I said it took lots of practise and the choice she had was to find some patterned fabric and practise quilting on that until she was happy with her work or to continue quilting her beginning sampler quilt. She chose to work on her project. I have been working on bits of fabric for practise but I finally decided the other day that I needed to take my own advice. I like the mash-up quilt, but I don’t feel precious about it, so it’s perfect for my needs; it has lots of areas for free motion and lots of places for ruler work (straight lines). I am quilting with white thread and so it’s virtually invisible on much of the top, so I don’t find myself constantly saying “that looks crappy, that’s okay…” I also know that when I wash the quilt, it will look even better as the stitches will sink into the quilt. So I am working a little each day and feeling better.

The Halloween Hexie quilt made the trip to AQS Phoenix and I’ve continued working on it at night. It’s so fun to put together.

Halloween Hexies

And I have to share this hilarious picture of Gizmo with you. A week or so ago we had the cats’ teeth cleaned and this vet shaved both ankles for the I.V. drip. With Gizmo’s long hair, we think he looks like a poodle ready for the Westminster Dog Show. We laugh every time we see him, poor guy!

Gizmo's shaved legs

 

It’s Santa Central!

You may remember that last December I went to visit friends and relatives in Pennsylvania and while there, I made a Santa with my niece and her son. I wasn’t in love with him but I didn’t have much time to find a pattern and try it and wasn’t sure what they might be up for. At the time, I looked at a lot of online patterns and ordered a number of them…just in case.

I got a text from my niece a few months ago asking about a return visit. I said no a few times, but then she bent my arm – I really have trouble saying no to her. I got out the patterns last month and sorted through them. I am not a dollmaker nor do I really like sewing 3D items like teddy bears. However two patterns from Sweet Meadows Farm on Etsy seemed do-able.
So here is what my great-nephew is going to make! This Santa is one of A Few Good Men and here’s the link to the pattern. He looks funny at first with his necked body.
Necked Santa
Then most of his body is painted. It is a Primitive type pattern, meaning that lots of coffee staining is involved and there were directions for sanding and rubbing cinnamon on the body. I opted for a less distressed Santa and used the brush strokes to make him looked used.
Santa body paint
 He looks difficult, but as I am no doll maker (yet!) I can tell you that he’s not. The part I worried about most were his eyes. I did not do as the pattern suggested, which was embroidering them, but drew the eyes on with colored pencil as the pattern maker suggested for another Santa pattern. His fleece beard is needle felted on and that was really easy too. I fiddled around with his hat a good bit, as I did last year. I realized they bother me because the Santas do not have round heads so the hats sit on them oddly. A bit of stuffing fixed it to my satisfaction. I did rather enjoy drizzling coffee on his trim to make it look old.
Santa face
I have been sewing Santa bits the last few days and Jasmine has been helping to make sure that all the supplies I need to take get into my suitcase! It will be a relief to get this all packed up and my Santas hung up. I must admit that for one week, I drove each day to Hobby Lobby, Joann’s or Michael’s to find what I needed! I also did some shopping on Etsy for fleece for the second Santa’s beard. Wait until you see him!
Jasmine helps with Santa
I am just in love with him and had the best fun creating him. Here is his “beauty shot”!
IMG_5519

The Disappearing Reds!!!

Decorators always talk about the transformative nature of paint and what a cheap fix it is. If you all thought the powder room re-do was a dramatic one, check out these pictures!!!

Here is the dining room. The dark red coupled with the bright white trim (and the awful air conditioner intake thing-y) was jarring. And I must admit that I have never seen anyone use the same color above and below a chair rail. The red was from the first owner and I don’t know how the previous owners could stand it.

Dreary Diningroom

My plan was to paint above the chair rail with a pale gray and then wallpaper underneath. Ha! All of the wallpapers that I like are terrifically expensive. {sigh} New plan is to see if they go on sale or do some stenciling myself. Peter is voting for stenciling and that would be fun and unique.

More red dining room

So for the moment we also have the same color above and below the chair rail, which is SW On The Rocks. Is this not amazing??? So cool and calm and crisp. I can’t wait to buy a new light fixture and decide whether to re-upholster the chairs or find new ones. For now, I am just SO happy looking at it.

On The Rocks grey!

Moving to the livingroom. There are no lights of any kind in here (just wall outlets) and it was dark, dark, dark. At night this red turned almost black, and not a cozy black but a black hole sort of black!

Red livingroom

I wanted the Indian rug to move in here, so I sampled colors to work with it. I had to paint some primer white first so that I could actually see the samples!

Livingroom paint samples

I chose the middle one, SW Biltmore Buff, and love the color. I couldn’t adjust the color properly – it’s more of a creamy yellow in the light we get (the windows face west) and the rug looks smashing in there. Now the room is so bright and warm without being too hot.

Biltmore Buff livingroom

The cats are always intrigued when the furniture is moved. The same piece takes on a whole new aspect when it’s not in the usual spot.

Gizmo exploringNow there’s only one more red room to re-do!

Making Pasta

This is not what I wanted to do today……I have such a big to-do list going. But I made pasta. I’m planning ahead for relatives who are coming on the 26th and don’t eat turkey leftovers {sigh}. I thought of Italian pasta entrees as they freeze well and manicotti sounded good. I breezed down the  pasta aisle yesterday and remembered why I always make sheets of pasta to roll around the manicotti filling…..commercial manicotti shells are thick and hard to boil and then tear when you fill them with the cheese-y goodness.

Many, many years ago, Peter and I took some Italian cooking lessons at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education in MA, a truly wonderful place. I’m delighted to see is still around. It was the first time we ate fresh pasta and good ricotta and amazing Parmigana Reggiano and that workshop with a woman named Anna was the beginning of us becoming foodies. If you’ve never made pasta before, I thought you might be interested to see how easy it is. It does take time and some patience, but the pasta is beyond delicious.

No recipe is needed and I use two ingredients, eggs and flour. You can add salt and extra virgin olive oil, but it’s not necessary. The traditional way of mixing the two ingredients is mounding sifted flour on a counter top, but I find it’s a mess to clean up. I use a very large metal bowl. I sift some flour, drop in 4 eggs and the process begins.

4 eggs

Using a fork, I scramble the eggs in the hole in the flour.

Scrambling the eggs

Then as I stir and stir and swirl the fork around the bowl, the flour is pulled into the eggs and gradually a mass starts to form. And I stir and swirl and stir some more.

The dough starts to form

When it holds its shape a bit, but is still tremendously gooey, I sift some flour onto the counter and drop the blob of dough onto the flour. If there is flour left in the bowl, I sift that and make a mound on the counter. Can you see the floury bits left in the sieve? It is very important to keep sifting the flour that is re-used. I don’t want the dried up bits of dough getting incorporated into the lovely soft dough I’m making. At this point a board scraper is a very useful tool. When the dough is this sticky, I use the scraper to incorporate more flour.

Starting to knead

When the mass of dough is less sticky, I start to knead it. It is not like kneading bread; I was admonished for my bread kneading motion in class! It’s more of a push and pull and smear, which I sometimes do with pie crust. I had Christmas music playing and I planned meals in my head as I worked. When it seemed to be lovely and soft, I kneaded it for 5 more minutes and then it was amazing. It should feel like…. you guessed it…. a baby’s bottom. Just so silky and soft.

Resting

Then the dough needs to rest, for at least 30 minutes and I put it under a bowl. Can you see how soft it looks? After 30 minutes, you can do whatever you like with the dough. Since I am making manicotti, I need sheets of pasta which I will wrap around the filling.

Rolling pasta

We bought this pasta machine after we took the class. You can get an attachment for a stand mixer or roll it by hand with a rolling pin, but I like using the machine best. It’s really fun to watch it become thinner and longer as I change the setting.

Sheets of pasta

Then the pasta needs to rest and dry out a bit. I cut the sheets into the size I want to use for the manicotti. I rolled the scraps through the pasta machine to make some rough noodles, which I might share with Peter for dinner! ;-D Meanwhile I need to making the yummy filling for the manicotti and get it frozen.

And, as always, I have a helper! I was cutting the pasta in the dining room and came back to the kitchen to find Gizmo investigating! What would I do without him?

Gizmo makes pasta

Starting Some Hand Quilting…

Several people have asked what I’m up to, in the creative department. Not much, is the answer. I am still fussing with the house and my studio and can’t quite get down to being the creative me again. But that doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. I can’t have idle fingers. ;-D I have unpacked lots of boxes in the studio and the Livingroom Rug Quilt has surfaced. I really like it and want to get it done. Turns out that a quilt guild I recently joined has a show coming up in the Spring and that is a great deadline to get me working on the stack of tops I have.

Livingroom Rug Quilt found

Hand quilting is really on the wane. I have been to three quilt shows this Fall and in this area of the country I expected to see more hand quilting. I love to hand quilt and haven’t done it in a while. After looking at this top for a bit, I have decided to hand quilt it! I can see some eye rolling, but here’s my reasoning. I don’t want to do an overall quilting design. I didn’t carefully piece all these geese and points to have a design go over them. I want to quilt around each shape. My machine quilting skills are such that this is a very tedious exercise. Frankly, it’s easier and quicker for me to hand quilt it and so I am. {As I am working, I see that more points than I would like have been nipped off. The circular geese are not easy to sew. Maybe I won’t enter it in the show….}

LPQ hooped

I was working on the Halloween Grandmother’s Flower Garden, but I’ve put that away until another trip. Parts of it are still portable.

Halloween GFG progress

Well, I know someone who always approves of hand quilting!

Jasmine quilting

A Cat’s Christmas in Illinois

Wow – we forget every year how much there is to do between Christmas and New Years! A good vantage point is under the tree on the fairly new tree skirt.

Jas & tree skirt

It is seriously fun to play on the bed in crunchy tissue papers and bite the stockings on Christmas morning. If we have enough energy we rip the paper in shreds which Peter and Debbie find for months. We always want to nap after breakfast and the excitement of playing on the bed wears us out!

Sleeping puds

The big no-no is fooling in the new wrapping paper bin, but we so like to make Deb yell!

Gizmo & paper

Boxes….there are still so many boxes this year! Trash Day came at an inopportune time, so until next week there are loads of choices. Like Goldilocks, we move from carton to box to find the one with the new purple sweater or the toasty fleece tucked inside.

Gizmo's box

After Christmas there are generally projects to do, relating to gifts we assume. This year it’s been the installation of an Apple TV device. After Peter cleaned the very dirty cabinet, we had to make sure all the cables were connected to the proper ports. Of course it’s the boys who are good at such things.

Cable check

Being attentive, hanging around and looking adorable is important around mealtimes, at Christmas or any time of the year. They might forget to feed us after all!

Attentive

When one gets weary of exploring, snacking on turkey and the looking cute thing, bliss is sleeping in the heater bed! This was purchased for the other cat, the very old Widget who liked heat to ease her arthritis. Neither of us youngsters “need” to get in the heater bed but we love it!!!!!!!! Whoever doesn’t grab it for the night has to go upstairs and sleep on Peter’s side of the bed because he turns the electric blanket on.

Jasmine in the heater bed

We sure hope you’re enjoying Christmas week as much as we are.

Jasmine & Gizmo