Friday, February 25, 2011

Out Of The Closet

No sewing news today. Yesterday and today I was busy preparing for some kind of job fair / interview for Bank of America. Last night I pondered what to wear - I fancied a change from the suit I normally wear... so I rummaged in the closet.

I remembered buying a Calvin Klein suit in an interesting green colour some time ago. I remember it needed adjusting but I was curious... I also vaguely remembered getting some Pierre Cardin and wondered if it was that green suit and I was not remembering the label...

Well, Mr Green was CK. I also discovered I had a whole Pierre Cardin black pinstripe I'd completely forgotten! (well, other than that vague recollection). I also discovered a separate Zegna jacket that will go nicely with a pair of plain black trousers.

Both fit nicely, so yay to finding forgotten treasures! :)

Here's a pic... nice purple shirt and tie, shiney black shoes (Tanino Crisci, wearing a little thin on the soles now)

EDIT: don't ask why I need rotating. I rotated the photo in Paintshop Pro but Blogger for some reason keeps rotating it so I'm sideways again!

For the record the job event turned out to be a waste of time! They weren't real jobs, just 1 month contracts and processing data for the IRS not BOA! After filling out half a dozen forms (with assistance) it became clear why they hadn't shown us the job descriptions before we turned up, though not for want of us trying to get hold of them!

Never, onward and upward as they say, hopefully to the Rochester job.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Mystery Revealed

Do you remember this?

my bright red pin cushion

Or more specifically this bit?

close up of the dangly bit of the pin cushion

Well I now have an explanation of what this dangly add-on to pin cushions is all about! This information comes from Chelle, who refused to leave Stitch In Time in Marrieatta until the truth was known!

Apparently once upon a time, many years ago, sewers used to coat their thread with wax. The needles would get all gunky from the wax, so the little dangly bit on the pin cushion used to be used to wipe off all the gunk by sticking the needle into it.

Back in those days the dangly bit used to be filled with scraps of embroidery thread and it did its job very well. Nowadays the dangly bits are typically filled with sand, and this is very bad for your needle/// the sand apparently will damage the needle, leaving little barbs due to the abrasive qualities of the sand, and these barbs will tear at your fabric as you sew.

So there you have it, the best thing to do with the dangly bits is to cut them off. Is it any wonder men don't feel inclined to take up sewing?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stacked To The Stars

well here they are, the hearty hundred... one 6-inch squares of fabric, randomly paired up and stitched together. I think that's part 1 of my first quilt finished!

(* you're probably getting used to this by now, so it'll come as no surprise to hear I can't really see what's in the photo - it seems rather dark to me, so apologies if the stack of squares isn't very visible!)

I certainly got faster, neater and made less mistakes as I worked through them :) and by the end I was getting half a dozen done in a pleasant hour of listening to my book.

I think on Monday the next stage will be to arrange them as looks best for the final quilt, and then I'm guessing they'll be pinned into some kind of bigger groups, and then more stitching will begin!

I'm definitely looking forward to getting a sense of what the final quilt will look like! So far I've known I like the fabrics, but it's hard to picture what they'll all look like in a patchwork!

I have pondering too how 100 squares will be assembled... it could be 12 x 8 (6 foot x 4 foot) or 10 x 10 (5 foot square)... they sound the most plausible scenarios, though there are a few others, including doing a couple more squares to give 12 x 9 for a good 6 foot by 5.5 foot for example... watch this space!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cocktail Quilt

I enjoyed a tasty plate of nachos and vegetarian chilli at Raging Burrito for dinner. And then I couldn't resist sampling a Rum Runner, a delicious concoction of white rum, banana and blackberry licqures, grenadine, OJ and pineapple juice. It was very refreshing and very yummy!

So, I think when I've finished the blue / beige / owl quilt I'm currently working on, I will start one inspired by the colours of the Rum Runner! Ok, so in a glass it all morphed into a deep pink colour, but I think keeping it all separate (yellow, blackberry, pomegranate, orange) will look great! I expect I can find some nice patterns to fit in there too, especially fruity themes. Looking forward to this!

Making Quilting Manly

It's not the usual combination, rugby and quilting, but there aren't any rules that say you can't do your quilting whilst watching Wales beating Scotland in the 6 Nations rugby! (you can watch it on the Beeb in the UK, and on BBC America here in the US... in 2 weeks it's England v France I believe)

It was great to hear the crowd singing the traditional Welsh rugby songs; the Welsh fans are always in good voice! And great to see Wales winning again, even if the game was a bit scrappy at times.

And, to boot, I got through stitching 5 more squares, then I ran out of paired-up squares so had to stop!

I think it should be a new rule in rugby that when a player gets sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes he should have to complete a minimum of 2 quilting squares to calm down and re-focus; this would work in ice hocky and American football too!

Remember, if you need to feel more matcho when quilting, just mix it with a healthy dose of contact sports... it really works!

Edit:In other news, I need to stop sticking pins and needles in my jumper or dressing gown (if I'm having a lazy day)... at best I just lose them, at worst I either stab myself trying to find them again, or I pull the needle out the wrong side and end up stitching it into the clothing, necessitating scissors to get it out! I think this is clearly one to add to the bad habits list!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree

Here is a great little trick for tying knots in thread - which isn't as easy as it sounds when you can't see what you're doing. Even people with perfect sight will find this a good tip! Thanks to Chelle for this one.

First problem is threading the needle. There are devices that can do this for you, though I admit I haven't mastered mine yet. You can always bribe somenody sighted to help though; chocolate works well.

Once threaded through the eye of the needle, pull the thread so that it is level with the other end. (Conventionally you'd leave the end of the thread dangling a couple of inches through the eye, but by double-threading it, knotting it to the other end of the thread, you avoid the chance of unthreading and possibly losing your needle if you drop it, something that can happen easily when you have to use your fingers to feel where you're sewing as well as where your stitches are, and holding the needle at the same time!)

This tip works even if you're just tying a knot in one end of the thread, but we're going to tie both ends together.

First, with your ends pulled together, wind the thread a couple of times around your index finger (the hand not holding the needle). Here's a photo showing this, the thread is wrapped around the index finger and the thumb is resting just on top of the thread, as if you were pinching it between thumb and the edge of your finger.

Now use your thumb to roll the thread off your finger; a motion somewhere between brushing and flicking something off the tip of your finger works well. The result should be a lose tangle near the end of the thread.

Finally find the end of the thread and pull it, and the tangle will form a knot. Ta-daa!

I sometimes find I unravel the tangle, but most times it goes straight into a knot. If you do untangle just re-lick your finger, wind the thread again, slide it off and pull it into a knot again.

It sounds complicated writing it down, but give it a whirl and you'll find it a quick and helpful little tip!

And here's a classic recording of Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree for you to sew along too!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quilting Class, Week 3: Fairy Steps

Class was quieter than previous weeks, with several people missing. That meant I got to talk quite a lot, especially about my trip to In Town Quilters and my owl fabric! That shop is a big favourite among the others, and I learned that there is a sale department downstairs!... a repeat visit is definitely in order to plunder the big discount fabrics! hehe.

I earned much praise for my improved stitching. This is no surprise really given how chronically wonky my first week attempts were, though I am rather pleased with how I seem to be getting on. I'm getting through my squares quickly and neatly. The main advice today is to try and make my stitches smaller, which I spent the rest of the class time trying to do. Here's a photo of one of my squares... I hope the stitching is visible... I'll be continuing to strive for even smaller stitches over the coming week, like little fairy steps tiptoing along the edge of the cloth.

Apologies if the photo is bad - I can' even see the difference between the fabric and the background paper, so I'll have to "use the force" on this photograph! (i.e. guess!)

In non-sewing news I got a new umbrella in anticipation of a whole day of rain which never really arrived! The umbrella is nice though, red with white squares and circles on it. The only rain I encountered though was the 30 deconds it took to get from the bus stop to the front door! Hopefully I can keep hold of this umbrella a little longer than the time it usually takes for me to leave it on the bus or train!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My First Fat Quarter

There's a lovely quilting shop in Decatur, Intown Quilters it's called. There are lots of gorgeous fabrics to peruse, and I was able to get a cheap fat quarter of one I'd seen with little owls on it! There were several colour choices, but I picked blue to go with the predominant theme of my current quilt. Here's a photo... so it's going to be 6x6 inch squares when get loose with the cutter on it, but for now I cropped the photo into a circle, just for a bit of geometric change :)

They also had a fabric with aligators on it, which I want too, but I figured it wouldn't fit in with this quilt's fabrics so I'm leaving the snappy little fellow for the next one!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Equipment 1

OK, so I began my accumulation (as it inevitably will be!) of sewing equipment today with my own pin cushion! I got it at Walmart for $2 and think it's great! It's a red tomato with a little strawberry attached to it, presumably for some purpose which I haven't worked out yet (very small pins?)... here's a photo, though please excuse me if it's blurry or chopped off anywhere - it's tricky taking photos when you can't really see what you're trying to photograph, and I'm no expert at photography, blind or otherwise!

new bright red pin cushion, looking like a tomato with a strawberry attached!

My main mission at the moment is a drop-leaf table, even better if it's a hip-height one (which would be good for making felt on, one of my other missions this year)... but so far I'm only finding ones which are made of "good wood" (cherry, mahogany) and not cheap materials like formica, so they're very expensive! The drop-leaf ones I do see are also designed for sitting at and are therefore a bit low... gosh I'm picky aren't I! I have seen some proper craft tables which I'd love with their multitude of draws and acres of surface space... but they're also $200-300 and much too big for the space we've got available! (hence the drop-leaf requirement for storage when not in use)... I'm thinking a small adjustable height table might do as a compromise... would love to hear any recommendations if anyone has found the ideal little craft table!

I'm also keeping my eyes peeled for a cheap sewing machine. It doesn't have to do anything too fancy and it doesn't have to bee a brand new one - I'm happy with a good worrking oldie if that's all I need, though obviously the $80 new ones at Walmart come with a guarantee which is always a nice bit of reassurance... again, recommendations welcome! All I know is I want a table top one, not a hand held one.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Week 2 (part 2): square-eyed

It didn't take long for the bundles of fabric, photographed in the previous pst, to be sliced and diced into 6 inch squares. Modern fabric butchery has moved on since I last saw yards of cloth bring expertly sliced with sharp scissors by the shop assistants in Harrogate; now the tool of choice is a pizza cutter, a razor sharp wheel on a stick, with a safety guard to prevent blind people from becoming sightless and fingerless people. It was very nifty and I look forward to wielding it when I get through my current stash of squares!

Here are some close-ups of the 5 different fabrics, including my handiwork stitching pairs of squares together. We do these random pairings and then will lay them all out in the pattern we want them; that'll be the point when we get to see what the quilt will really look like!

Over the weekend I learned about the mistakes I made in my stitching last week. I'd been making my stitches perpendicular to the edge of the fabric, rather than heal-to-toe running parallel up the edge. So I practiced that a little and at class I was much better, much straighter than the wonky straight line reported last week.

My stitches are still too far away from the tape that indicates the target stitching line, so I'll probably unpick all the stitching on these squares and re-do it. I may try not using the tape, since I don't feel it very well as I'm sewing, and I think I'd do better just aiming for the edge of the fabric, rather than trying to concentrate on getting close to the tape and not sewing over the tape... once again, I think it's one of those try it and see how it goes things!

Week 2: A Choice Of Colours

Today was all about the choice of fabrics, which has to be one of the best bits of any project! My preference was for blue, beige, orange and red, and so Jennifer the supervisor went off to rummage in the box and see what there was... turned out there was quite a few options! She did a brilliant job of describing them and suggesting which combination of colours and patterns complimented each other, Here's a photo of the 5 choices I decided on, piled up waiting to be cut into 6x6 inch squares.

I discovered there was more to the art of quilting than I had previously pondered. It's not just about the colours, but also about who it's for and where it's going to go. I nominally decided on a lap quilt, probably 9 squares by 6, though I seem to have enough squares to make a bigger if I so choose. We'll see how it goes!