Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Racing, Skating and Taxes

As the weekend neared, I was surprised to find that two of the three motorcycle roadracing series that I follow had rounds scheduled AND that World Figure Skating Championships would also be broadcast. Hours of racing to watch, hours of figure skating to watch, over 3 days. So much for making progress on the Rails quilt! It also dawned on me that the deadline for submitting tax returns is quickly approaching and I'd not done a thing except load the tax software that I use. Believe it or not, I did get a little work done on the taxes while listening to pre and post race commentary, but really need to focus on it this week. Oh, and it's the end of the month and there are a few bills to pay and budgeting figures to work out, so I don't think much studio time will get squeezed in. However, I did run across this new Zentangle that I really wanted to add to my "Just Add Red" sketchbook and decided I may as well spend a little time with it this afternoon. Sometimes you have to take a moment to treat yourself. I intend to add one or two more lines of what they have named "Puppy Hugs" intertwining behind this one before doing the shading. This tangle looks good at several stages so the behind ones will probably be partials of the main one. Instead of the Micron pens I usually use, I've chosen these Uniball Air pens because the red one works so well in this sketchbook.

What, if anything, has been keeping you away from your studio?

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Starting on Rails

It's been a really long time since I bought quilting fabric, even longer since I bought any specifically for a project. But here I am, looking for inspiration for a quilt to go to my goddaughter's latest baby, and I find it in two places: An AQS pattern called Rainbow Rails and a new line of Moda fabric with Noah's Ark theme at my local quilt shop. You can spot the two designs I picked from the line peeking out from under the pinks I mentioned a month ago that had me all in a tizzy and confused. But living with them out like that for so long has helped me calm down and see what is going to work. The more muted pinks go better with the raindrops fabric on the left, the blue fabric in the middle has animals and will be the backing. I ended up getting 3 yds each of the new fabric, unsure of which would be backing and which background, and got it washed and ironed, along with the batiks in the last post, over the weekend. Straining my brain to remember how I set my newer washing machine, digging out the Synthropal, reminding myself how to use Retayne on the batiks. It really has been a long time.

EQ layout print out, Original AQS pattern directions, Graph paper cutting guide

So Saturday was National Quilting Day - did you remember? Did you devote any time to quilting? - and getting started on this quilt was how I planned to spend it, but the fabric prep took up so much time I didn't even get any cutting done as I'd hoped. But because I needed to make changes to the Rainbow Rails pattern to turn it from a big quilt to a smaller one, I was on my own in terms of cutting dimensions and number of pieces and blocks. Another thing I haven't done in ages is use my EQ software to help size things and decide on a layout. But I soon got the hang of it and printed out two versions along with its estimates of fabric requirements. In the end, I decided on a reduced size block of 12 inches set 3 x 4. The raindrops fabric that will be background/sashing/borders is directional so I opted to get out graph paper to determine how best to cut the longest strips since some will run parallel to the selvage while others will run selvage to selvage. It just felt like it would be working in the dark if I didn't do this and now I can confidently start cutting. Not sure if I'll mix in another color other than pink like I did in the mock-up but do like how that looks.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Getting There

Tiny needles, thin thread, slow progress . . . this second sock is taking forever even though I am now past the heel turn and into a steady knit two purl two ribbing. I pick it up in the evenings when watching certain tv shows that don't require my eyes to be locked onto the screen but many evenings I find I'm too tired to move from the couch to the big leather chair with the good lighting to work on it. Ah well, eventually . . .  In the meantime, I keep running across sock knitters who talk of blocking their socks when done. Somehow I don't feel the need but there must be a reason. So with nothing better to do, I started searching for sock blockers that would accommodate knee highs since I plan my next pair to be a pair of those. Such a wide range of blockers are available but all short with one exception. These birch blockers with free customization were a bit pricey but since they come from Ukraine, I decided to splurge. My name and logo are burned into the birch, and the length of the foot can be adjusted for many sizes. I am pleased!

I'm about ready to dive into the baby quilt. My ironing board is functional as an ironing board again and half of the work table cleared of bookmaking projects etc. so I can get that new fabric washed and ironed and start cutting. While I'm at it, I'm planning on washing the last fabric splurge I made back before I started having physical issues keeping me from sewing - they were one more thing I'd left on the floor and never got around to tending to. One is a batik with mariner compasses on it that I thought I could pair with one of the specialty fat quarters - why I didn't want to put either away. Maybe I'll finally get them together. Three or four spotted batiks which I've always loved, reminding me of water and were on sale. A dark brown solid that I thought might bleach interestingly. A rusty orange batik that I thought could work into one of my nature-inspired art quilts. Time to get them washed and into the stash.

Speaking of art quilts, Ellen Anne Eddy recently described art in conjunction with her work with some students. Ellen was quite prominent in the quilting world when I landed in Wisconsin in the early 1990's and discovered what a hotbed of quilting the Midwest was. My late friend Judi somehow knew so many of these quilters who taught and hung out at quilt shows and Ellen was one she introduced me to as we queried her about dyeing fabric. I'm not a particular fan of her heavily thread painted nature pieces, but she knows her stuff and is a delightful person still. Here is what she said:

"I run into a lot of people who tell me they aren’t artists. Usually, that’s because they’re more verbal than visual. If you talk with them they can explain their images and the concepts in a way that brims with art.  Perhaps the problem is how do we define art?. If it has to be set in a mold, like figure drawing, or landscapes, that’s a pretty big limit on a much wider world. But if art is, vision out of chaos., order out of disaster, and the creation of beauty and sense in the retelling of ourselves., that may be where my definition hovers. Art is life. The way we live creates our own beauty, our own songs, soothes our worst fears, and helps us to see ourselves in a different mirror that focuses on our strengths and beauty, instead of our failures and misgivings. Art simply flows out of that. The things we produce our wonderful. But they are largely the byproduct of the process of restructuring who we are through our imagery. These kids already have it. I believe we all do, from birth."

You can see some of the kids' beginnings of their fabric art on Ellen's blog post here as well as read more about the project.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Mistakes Were Made . . .

As I sat down on Tuesday to write this blog post, my internet went down and stayed down until this morning. Thus the lateness of this post; always amazes me how it throws me off whenever I can't keep to my normal internet routine. I did find ways to fill the time, of course, including more tidying of the studio and some housework I've been avoiding. You'd think I might have spent some time knitting on my sock but I was giving it a rest after working last week getting the heel turned on sock two. I'd struggled on sock one with the method used in my pattern directions and struggled again even though I had a better understanding of what I was doing. Mistakes were made that left a couple of holes in the knitting, but rather than unraveling what I'd done to the bad spot, I just fixed it with a bit of "darning" from the inside. After all, these socks are not gifts so I can live with the imperfections and my fixes. But onward to finishing up the Celtic Weave journal, where I discovered another mistake made. I didn't notice it until I'd sewn almost half the signatures together with the outside link stitches. Look closely at the above photo (or click for a larger view) and you will see in the center 3 sets of holes in the middle of each signature. There should only be two. I know not how I managed to mark my template with the two holes for the weaving offset from center by so much. I simply could not live with it so I added a hole that made the weaving space longer but at least centered. Yes, you CAN punch additional holes in a signature after it is sewn into the spine.

I was hoping that the threads crossing over would hide the extra holes but they did not. My signatures are a bit thicker I think than the ones on the first journal so the weaving isn't as compressed. I like that it shows up better even if it doesn't cover the extra holes. And I'm not unhappy with the extra width; I think the stitching looks very balanced. I worked a bit at encouraging the holes to close with some success, but like the socks, I'm glad this is not a gift; I can live with this imperfection, as well as the fact that the lines printed on the pages do not line up along the spine. I seldom remember to think about how the signatures will look on these open spine bindings. In this case, I really struggled with trimming the pages to size, my paper cutter forcing me to reduce the number of pages cut at a time (which accounts for lines not lining up) and still not giving me clean cuts many times. I trimmed the fore edges with a rotary cutter and struggled with that too, the pages within the folded signatures shifting inside leaving me with uneven cuts. Seriously, the signatures turned out a mess which I could mostly but not entirely clean up. Sigh. I blame it all on the paper, although I've used it before and don't remember having these issues.

But it is done, or almost, a chunky 5 x 6-3/4 book for quotations. I did fold the covers to leave a rather large flap on front and back which I will glue at top and bottom so it functions like a pocket.

But before doing that, I'm considering adding an elastic closure like what is on my current quotation book, running vertically along the fore edge rather than horizontally around the middle (and in doing so, covering up the weaving stitch). The chunkiness of the signatures coupled with the soft cover seem to demand that and the flap can hide where it comes through the back cover. But what should I use? I could use this bright green narrow elastic.

Or I could use this wider decorative flat elastic which has a bit of glitz to it but goes well with the handmade paper of the cover. What do you think?