Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015

Loving this simple yet interesting stitch pattern
So are you one of those who hustles to finish one last project before the clock ticks over to the new year? I've been working on this ear-warmer headband off and on this month, using up what was left of the hand-dyed wool yarn after making a neck warmer for a friend - you can see it in progress here. In my rush to get it wrapped and in the mail, I failed to take a picture of it, but below is the photo from the pattern to give you an idea. I may or may not finish the earwarmer tonight while watching a movie and waiting for midnight (I really am close), but I'm not stressing about it. It's been quite enjoyable trying a new stitch pattern, and I like this one a lot. So many of the free patterns I have on hand rely on really basic knit and purl which had started to bore me. I was up for something more interesting. The rhythm of this one sucked me right in and I love the texture those slanted "v's" give.

"Hubby Approved Neck Warmer" similar to the one I knitted using zigzag stitch

I do understand the pull to add one last item to the list of completed ones (accomplishments!) as well as to keep a nearly done one from bleeding over into the next regimented time frame. But there's also something to be said for relaxing on this last day of the year, enjoying whatever bits it has to offer.  For me it was lazing over my morning coffee before knitting a bit on the ear-warmer, warming my body up with some yoga, then bundling for an early walk once I noticed the sun was making headway through the cloud cover. It actually broke free mid-afternoon, filling the room where the computer lives with such wonderful light that I've spent time there until it set.

Best of all, I've been enjoying this little rosebush that showed up on my doorstep yesterday - a belated Christmas gift that is in stark contrast to the wintry scene outside.

Look at all those buds! And it has a lovely scent as well.

I'm fairly astounded at the size of these blooms. I've only seen this sort of thing in "miniature" form, tiny tiny roses to grow inside. These rival any on full-size bushes I've tried cultivating in various gardens over the years. I'm hoping I can keep it alive and blooming for a long time.

The sun has now set so I am ready to finish up here on the computer and perhaps wander into the studio to tend to the remaining padfolios. I have some time before heading to the kitchen to fix my traditional New Year's Eve turkey enchiladas. But I find I'm not particularly driven to see them finished today either. It's a deadline that other years has been important to me, but not this year. What doesn't get finished today will get finished soon enough.

Wishing my readers a Happy New Year - I am grateful for you all!


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wishing You Peace...

Ok, I caved to the holiday prep thing since I last posted, setting aside finishing the last of the padfolios and starting on some cards (yes, the majority of them will be very late). I haven't done any decorating, and would not put up lights outside anyway so the picture above is not of my place, but of my neighbor's. He did such a tasteful job of decorating, as have many people along my street, and I am thankful to each of them for bringing this bit of brightness and joy for me to savor.

Oh - and there's been a fair bit of snow shoveling too. It's one way to earn that calorie-laden eggnog latte I treat myself to this time of year.

Here's the daytime view of the neighbor's abode, to show you the snow that has piled up over the last week or so. We've been getting it in around 4" dumps - sometimes a bit less and not everyday, but many of them.

I love the snow and can't imagine living long someplace that would not have at least a bit of it over the winter. So I don't complain about the shoveling, not when my reward is views like this.

So the padfolios, lined up ready for buttons and cords, can sit tight for a few more days. It's Christmas...may you have a merry one!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

First of the "Fresh" Padfolios

Wispy Swirls Padfolios
I decided I'd share this latest batch of padfolios a few at a time, especially since that is how I am finishing them up. These first two feature a new wrinkle on the elastic band closures. The wider braid-type elastic can be stitched in place, raw ends covered with a button on the flap like here. But this narrow elastic cord that I was so excited to find (see the colors that caught my eye here) cannot be sewn that way. I wasn't happy with what I worked out on this padfolio, and spent several nights as I dropped off to sleep thinking about how to attach it.

It may seem obvious to the rest of you, but the solution has been alluding me for quite some time even though it is quite simple. Really, the only way to secure the ends is to knot them and although I get overly concerned about neatness and hiding things like knots, placing one between the pockets on the inside is unobtrusive. 

I used a large needle to poke two starter holes before drawing the ends through from outside to inside for knotting - two holes because that would be easier than making one big enough for both strands to travel through and because then the elastic loop could never accidentally get pulled all the way through. Make sense? I think it also keeps things less bumpy spreading them out like that - neat and tidy. The other thing I like is that it keeps the elastic out of the way when the padfolio is open. Something about it hanging off the flap seemed more in the way and more prone to catching on things.

Here are the insides of them - the top one for the "Grass Green" padfolio, the bottom one for the "Teal/Green" one. If you're wondering about those colorful junior legal pads, I buy them at Staples when they go on sale.

Rich Rust Oak Leaves Padfolio - front

The other two I want to share today have velcro closures. I'm not that keen on the velcro for myself, but in this case it seemed the best closure for the fabrics involved. I'm calling these Oak Leaves because they are the ones I stitched with oak leaf motifs. This first one is "Rich Rust". I had fun shaping the flap around the oak leaf stitching.

Rich Rust Oak Leaves Padfolio - back

Here's the back. This fabric is so fabulous with that classic hand-dye depth.

The lining fabric has been hanging out in my stash since the mid-'90s I think. I always loved it but never quite figured out how to use the two fat quarters I had. I think it came from a collection of "marbled" prints from Keepsake Quilting. At any rate, it had all the colors in that hand-dye, and it was time to put it to use!

Green/Mahogany Oak Leaves Padfolio - front

The second Oak Leaves padfolio is a highly textured hand-dye of greens and mahoganies. A little angling of the flap edge revealed part of a stitched oak leaf.

Green/Mahogany Oak Leaves Padfolio - back

All that texturing did make it difficult to know how to add stitch. I'm glad I settled on the large oak leaves.

I had enough left of the hand-dye to make the pockets, and found this commercial fabric that matched the green in it.
I've added these four to the Padfolio page on the blog - click on the tab above or here if you are interested in purchasing one. At present, the "Buy Now" Paypal links are only set up for shipping to US addresses, and in fact, it will take a bit of arm twisting to talk me into international shipping. :-)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Almost there...

Was pretty excited to see that bright green among the subtler colors
Look at these beauties I've just added to my thread stash. A friend alerted me that a quilt shop had opened within walking distance of me (good news since we've been without a quilt shop for months, bad news because it's so close!), and I was thrilled to find they are carrying my favorite King Tut variegated threads. Since the shop that got me onto this thread closed its doors 3 or so years ago, I lost that luxury of a few minutes drive when I found myself in the middle of a project lacking the right color of thread or unexpectantly running out. Suddenly, it was an hour drive to the nearest shop carrying it (in limited colors) or peer at the computer screen wondering if the thread really would be that color if I ordered on-line, then wait wait wait. I nearly swooned when I spotted the display, and did some stocking up during their grand opening sale.

I often use this King Tut thread on my padfolios. I really like its short run in the varegations and slightly thinner weight than a standard cotton thread. It works so well for the satin stitching, giving coverage without undue buildup when I make the second pass around the outside edge for durability. It's been so lovely getting reacquainted with my machine, listening to its familiar hum and appreciating its stitching precision (put up those feeddogs and it is much more precise than I will ever be!). Apparently, it is over being a bit miffed at me for spending my time elsewhere for so long, laying down beautiful satin stitching without a hitch on this near-final step of the padfolios.

The first 5 ready for closures

I have missed the deadline of having these ready for holiday gift-giving purchase, but as I saw that goal slipping away, I sensed a different, more important goal had taken its place, a sort of getting back on the horse of how I used to work in the studio, reestablishing routines and sustaining my momentum. It has been a surprise and a relief to find myself truly enjoying working through this little production run, and to be able to work at my previous 3 to 4 hour stints with ease. No sense of drudgery, no checking the clock and wondering why the hands had hardly moved, little frustration thinking through steps and material selections, no physical draining. This is the way creating should be, should feel. It's good to have it back. I'm encouraged and hopeful that I may have finally gotten on top of those medical issues that have been holding me back all year.

Oh look! An elastic cord the perfect color.

So even though I've missed that marketing deadline, and I really should be tending to my Christmas cards, I'm not setting these aside to be finished up later. It's a little something I need to do for myself, seeing this through to completion, remembering how I used to work, remembering how much I enjoyed doing this, looking forward to that triumphal moment when I can step back and admire what I've accomplished. I only have the closures to suss out - mostly velcro or magnets, but perhaps a button or tie or elastic on some. Then a quick application of a protectant spray and they will be ready for sale. I have to say, I am really in love with this batch, love the fabrics and all the little things I learned from them (really - a different approach to design decisions than one makes on art for the wall or quilt for the bed - a little epiphany that is probably obvious to most). And that might have a little something to do with how well they have gone. What started with a sense of obligation to a potential customer turned into a personal journey of pleasure and rediscovery.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Found My Stitch

I've completed all the decorative stitching on the covers of all 9 padfolios in progress - whew! Taking my cue from the batik lining of the first one in line, I took a big breath and started stitching what I hoped would look similar to the ferns on that batik. The thread color worked wonderfully and I found myself slipping into a familiar rhythm - not exactly the ferns but something I realized I'd used before with success. However, I can't remember where that was! Needless to say, it was delightful to find an old comfortable friend that required no marking, second guessing, stress. I used it on another cover, but the thread I chose quilted much darker than I anticipated - subtle it is not! I'm hoping the satin stitching around the outside in the same or similar color with pull it all together. Right now it sorta looks like I used the wrong color, even though those colors are in the cover fabric.

But even though I "found my stitch", the other covers led me back to the successful leaves of the first ones I did. Two with maple leaves arranged along the flow of the colors in the cover fabric, one with the big oak leaves draping across the back, front and flap. I am pleased. Now it's on to fusing on the linings and glue basting pockets in place.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Emerging From The Mire

Talk about a production!
I got bogged down last week, picking out pockets and linings for my padfolios. One of the days I decided I could not move forward if I didn't commit to at least some of the combinations I had paired up with covers. Starting with one I was pretty excited about, I carefully lined up my ruler on the piece of fabric that was just wide enough and a bit deeper than what I needed and made my first cut. Tossed the inches-wide excess to the side. Placed the lining over the cover, only to discover it was inches short in depth. I immediately sensed what had happened, that I'd placed the 15" square-up ruler sideways. Essentially I was lining things up from the 15" mark down when it should have been the 1" mark at the top. And yes, no more of that fabric. As silly mistakes can often do, it threw everything else off for me - you know how that goes. So it was back to pulling even more fabric, stacks everywhere! Yesterday, I finally made my last decision and cut, and put away every unused piece of fabric and a few extra linings and pockets that I decided against. I even discovered under one pile that rust rectangle at the bottom of the picture - now what was that for, a lining? Truly can't remember, but it's ready to go! 

Four down, five more to go. Gotta ramp it up!

The stacks of fabric have been replaced by stacks of padfolio pairings ready for stitching. And now I feel the second guessing setting in - no doubt because of all the second guessing I found myself doing over the pockets and lines. I've said before that I probably spend too much time fussing over them, but I do want the insides to be as interesting as the outsides and to look like they go with them. Ditto for choosing thread color and stitching designs. I thought I'd try something different on these two - outlining the dye resist designs in the one (not sure that worked so well), running diagonal lines across the other. The diagonals took more time than I anticipated; I ended up laying down tape and stitching on either side of it, then up through the middle so my diagonals wouldn't go too far astray. I free-motion stitched the lines with imperfection in mind - gentle wavering (not sure about this one either). I think for the next group I'm going back to leaves...