Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fresh Squeezed Quilt

Despite a little bit of angst and some frustratingly mismatched points while sewing (one of which I redid four times before I decided it was just meant to be crooked) the fabulous Fresh Squeezed quilt top is done.

I like it quite a bit, despite its imperfections. If I did it again, I would try to pick more suitable colours for sashings (i.e. the watermelon orange strips between the patchwork diamonds) and for the little single diamonds connecting the sashings. The way I have it, I think the sashings are tonally too similar to the patchwork diamonds, and some of the little diamonds between them are tonally too similar to the yellow background, making them disappear a bit. I suppose every quilt is a learning process, though. Perhaps I need to get out graph paper and pencil crayons and plan things out a bit more, in the future.

It is still a bit garish, although I think having it bounded by the relatively solid fabrics of the sashing and background helps to tone that down a bit. I still love the brightness and cheeriness of it. I wish this photo did the colours justice -- it looks a bit washed out by the flash, toward the bottom. Clearly I need more practice with the camera...

All I need to do now is get some batting and plan out a quilting design for it. I am thinking of trying something a bit fancier than in the past, so I am getting some books on hand-quilting designs from the library. Wish me luck.

In knitting news, the lace edging on the Mystery Shawl is two-thirds done. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, I will have pretty much finished it, so I can block it and show it off. After all, it won't surprise you to know that I have more quilting and knitting projects waiting in the wings, to be started soon...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Home Stretch

Well, this is it. The Mystery Shawl, after completing clue four, and just before beginning clue five: the edging lace (which is also a very very slow bind off of all 576 stitches.) I'm actually already a third of the way done the edge. It's a quick and simple lace edge, easily memorized so that I don't even need the chart. Further photos will come when the edge is finished and it's pinned out to block.

Needless to say, this race-to-the-finish with the Mystery Shawl means that I haven't yet sat down to finish piecing the quilt top. It is still sitting in strips and triangles, waiting for me to have the patience to do the last of the piecing. Unlikely I will get to it for another day or two, especially since I'm so close to finishing the lovely lacy shawl. Funny, isn't it, how more than one project nears completion at the same time...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in the Saddle

That next step of picking up the sashing and carrying on with Project Quilt Top Completion got put off for a couple of days... I ended up seeing The Dark Knight that night, instead (which is gut-wrenchingly perfect and really takes the whole saga to new and interesting places -- Christopher Nolan just might be a genius. I know I don't need to say anything about the performances, since it's all been said already. But yeah, jaw-droppingly perfect.)

And then, having finished the last (current) baby project, I picked up the Mystery Shawl again and have been voraciously working on it. Although it is a bit slow-going, I've gotten up to 60% finished the fourth clue. It is getting really difficult to show off, since there are so many stitches on the needles that I can't spread them out really well. Another week or so, maybe, on this clue, and then I get to do a nice finish around the outside edge...

As for the quilt, here is a photo of some more colourful little diamonds, laid out in the order they will be sewn to sashings, which is the next step I have to deal with along the way of finishing the quilt top. Today I will actually start this (promise) and then I can get the previously promised photos up.

In the meantime, I've been cutting out hundreds of little paper hexagons for another project... but I'll get to that later.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

February Baby Sweater

Well, I am finally giving away one of the baby projects I was working on, so y'all finally get to see it. It's Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Sweater on Two Needles (ravelry), better known as the February Baby Sweater, from her Knitter's Almanac. This is the first one I've ever made, and very quick, easy, satisfying. I used Blue Moon Fiber Arts' Socks that Rock in Heavyweight for it, and I really like how it turned out. The variegated colour pools a bit and stripes a bit and is random for a bit, but I think it looks cool. And the shiny little taupe buttons that I dug out of the bottom of my sewing kit are just about perfect. It's a bit bigger than I had anticipated, at this gauge... If I make another, it will more likely be in the light or medium weight instead. But then, babies do come in all sizes.

As for the quilt, I have spent a couple of days just Being With It. Once I arranged the diamonds and partially sewed them together with some sashing, I started to get concerned that it was not just bright and cheery, but perhaps... dare I say... garish? Like on the verge of clowny? Oh dear. So rather than panicking about whether it will turn out beautiful (since I can somewhat recognize that this is just the moment in my relationship with a project where I start to think it might be regrettably horrible and unwanted by the recipient) I have instead decided to just live with it and look at it for a few days without judgement and worry. (Particularly since the recipient is me.) Likely tomorrow I will grab the rest of the sashing and take the next step toward sewing the top together. I will take some photos when I can, and let y'all be the judge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some Leisurely Progress

Things are still plugging away here at Chez Crafty. I've sewn all the little diamondy strips into even diamondier diamonds. I don't always like the patchwork look in quilts, but this really appeals to me. Maybe it's the colours... maybe it's how awesome (most of) my matched points turned out... Even a minor mismeasurement setback today didn't put me off for long. I've started sewing some sashing strips to the diamond blocks, and then I get to actually start to plan the layout of the blocks with each other. I have to say, I've been working on it for an hour or two a day for a week or so, and I'm glad I didn't try to piece it all in a weekend, as the pattern says one theoretically can. I guess I'm doing things at a slower pace than a quilt pro might.

Speaking of slower paces, the entrelac blanket is totally in hibernation, and even the lace shawl has been set aside for some more baby knitting that I can't show you yet. Baby season never ends.

Happily, I am content with my slowish pace, despite the many things I have in my queue. So nice to work without deadlines, isn't it?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

And So It Begins Again

What -- did you think I'd take a while to rest before starting a new quilt? Guess again. I have at least three that are knocking at my brain every day, wanting desperately to get out. So in the last few days I sewed and I cut and here are a bunch of diamondy strips just waiting to be sewn some more. I'm sure you can see from this photo how bright and sunny and cheery this one will be. It puts me in a happy mood, just working on it. Having the new Fratellis album playing in the background doesn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

If Lampshades Wore Berets

then this picture would make more sense. I have draped the Mystery Shawl over this lampshade to try to get a decent photo of the third clue completed. The first two clues are above the top edge so you can't see them -- it's getting to be a good size. If you don't believe me, you can count the stitches: it's now up to 576 per round. Yikes. The clue I just completed only had 288 stitches per round (only!) so this upcoming one will go even slower than that one did, despite that little heat wave breaking, which means I can knit without sweaty little hands.

Having finished my Requiem quilt, my mind is racing with a million ideas for things I want to do next. This is probably partly from meandering through the many blogs I like to keep up with, since so many crafty people are doing so many creative things. There is such an abundance of inspiration in blogland, if only I had a corresponding amount of time and money. Meantime, the fabric for my next quilt is partly sorted, but not yet cut up into strips and/or triangles. Until I get some matching thread, I can't get much further than that, anyway. Watch for more pictures soon...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Requiem to a Requiem

Well, late last night, with sore fingers and red eyes, I finished the last stitches on the Requiem quilt. I am really happy with how the colour combination turned out. The blue on the edge is more of a teal, as you can see by the contrast with the blue of our bedsheets. Strangely, it isn't really the same blue as the blue in the flowers (despite the fabrics being from the same fabric collection.) Still, I think it goes very well. And the nice grassy green on the back is not something I'd always go for, but it looks great here, I think.

It's funny, actually -- as I was doing the handstitching of the binding to the back of the quilt, I was thinking about how it might be the most enjoyable part of the whole process. Then I realized that I'd been saying that about every step of the quilt, from fabric to sewing to arranging to quilting. I guess I just have to face the fact that I am a quilter, through and through.
As far as the binding goes, I normally just use a basic whipstitch to attach it to the back, but this time I decided to make it an opportunity to practice an applique stitch technique, since I have at least one applique quilt in my future. Perhaps you can see from this photo (click for ridiculously big) that the stitches in applique are practically invisible. (If I was smarter, I would have provided a comparison photo with a whipstitch on my last quilt. I'm not that smart.)

So the quilt has received a good review, having been slept under (or around or whatever) for one night so far. I don't think I ever mentioned that I used a cotton batting, with what is considered in the quilt world a 'high loft.' Let me just say that high loft cotton is not a particularly high loft, although it is nice to hand quilt and certainly makes a quilt that is a nice temperature, but not too warm for the summer. One day I am going to try a quilt with wool batting and see how snuggly and warm it will be for winter.

Having finished this one, I am beginning to consider the colour layout for the next, though I'm taking a day or two before I really tuck into it.

I am also knitting off and on, on the Mystery Shawl -- about 60% done the third clue, and today I downloaded the fourth, which is pretty huge. I'm really enjoying that, too, though obviously lace knitting takes a lot more concentration than handquilting does. Hopefully in a day or two I'll have the third clue finished and I'll try to manage a decent photo.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thwarted by Summer

I never thought I'd say it, but it's too hot to knit. To knit lace, anyway. I find that my hands get all sweaty and then the fine lace yarn doesn't like to slide along the needles the way it should, and when the movements get too herky-jerky and strained I start to get frustrated and then it's not fun. The whole reason I knit lace is because it's fun. So I have to do my lace knitting while the weather is cool -- usually in the mornings and in the evening. Obviously I'd rather be doing it all hours of the day, but alas.

This means that my progress on the Mystery Shawl is slower than I'd like. I'm not quite half done the third clue yet, but it's looking great. Of course, lace never looks that great until it's blocked, but I have high hopes for this one. At this point, it's getting much bigger than the needles I have it on, so it's looking mostly like a big holey sack, but I've tried to show off a wedge of it so you can see the progress. Trust me, one day you'll be super-impressed, even if it doesn't look like much now.

In the meantime, I am so close to finishing Requiem that I can taste it. And it tastes great. I have a few more hours of handquilting and then I can take it off the frame and sew the binding around the front edge with the sewing machine. After that, I have to sit down on my sofa and handstitch the binding to the back. Ugh, that will be a challenge in this heat. Sitting under a quilt for hours is not exactly appealing. I'll have to brainstorm a solution to this one...