Saturday, June 15, 2019

Scrappy Trip Around the World

Well, it has once again rolled around to a new month, and I have been lackluster in my blogging again. But I have been sewing a fair bit. Last time I blogged, I had resurrected some 6-year-old trial blocks for the "Scrappy Trip Around the World." And I kept making them, using my 2.5" strips, until I had a total of the 48 I need for a 72"x96" top.
48! It went very fast, all things considered. That's what I love about quilting. It's a high-energy, quick gratification thing. Unlike knitting, which I probably need to do to recover my zen after all the blocks I made. Also, I need to clean up my scraps again, but that's a never-ending thing.
 I experimented with a few different layouts; above is more or less an attempt at true randomness, and below is trying to keep adjacent blocks with diagonal paths in the same color/value groups.
 I ended up liking the more random approach of the first time but of course the final layout is different, and I didn't bother to take a picture of it. I did stack the blocks and pin the row numbers on the top in each stack so I can sew them together. That is going to go more slowly, because the long seams of putting a big quilt together are not what I like best, so I tend to put it off or only work in concentrated spurts.
Speaking of putting things off, I put the Celtic Solstice on the frame at the end of 2017, and I am finally getting back to it just today. I'm a little unhappy with how the tension is not quite right... maybe it's subpar thread that is the problem, maybe the machine needs a tuneup. But even with occasional broken threads or tension issues on the bottom, I finished about half of the overall center of the quilt just this morning. I will need to repin the quilt to do the side border quilting. I'm definitely trying to remind myself that "finished is better than perfect."

I don't think I shared this on the blog yet, just on Instagram. This is a test block of "Sand Castles" from Bonnie K. Hunter's newest book String Frenzy. It has a lot of 4-patches I pieced as leaders and enders between the scrappy trip blocks, and some string blocks, and is just going to be really fun.

Also, reporting on the UFO challenge... I haven't really finished any of my quilting or fiber UFO's except for January, when I spun up my autumnal colors batt. I was supposed to do Celtic Solstice, the 1996 Piecemaker's Quilt, and at least 2 other machine quilting finishes so far this year, and for fiber arts, Rosalind, Manu, and more spinning which haven't been touched. The number for June is 10, which translates to the Rainbow Star quilt top, and the On Your Toes sweater which has languished for many years. I may have a good shot at finishing the Celtic Solstice quilting, though. These challenges are more like REALLY broad guidelines, anyway. I have a pair of lacy Sara Elin socks I really want to finish knitting, and I am also continuing cleaning and organizing my sewing area while I work on scrappy quilts and maybe more baby quilts. Happy with the progress on the quilt front this past month, whether I finish any UFO's or not.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Celebrating the Scrap User's System

I have been spring cleaning a bit in my sewing area. It badly needed it, and has for a long time. In the way I allow myself when I am spring cleaning, I have also been getting distracted and working on new projects. More of that later.
The intervention had to be done. Above is the new scrappy assorted stash I acquired from a 90-year-old lady down the street who was having a downsizing fabric sale. I know there are 90's fabrics in there and probably some older than that. My cupboards are already overflowing.
I finished two little baby blankies made of novelty fabrics in 4 and 5" squares. They are a layout of 12x14 for the 4" squares, and 9x10 for the 5" squares. I used no batting, quilted in the ditch and backed them with cozy flannel from Joann's, which I then folded to the front for the binding. I washed them in cold water afterwards. They can be played on, wrapped up in and snuggled with until they become rags, as is proper with baby blankies. I should allow 1 1/3 yards of flannel for the backing in the future.
Bonnie Hunter has a great Scrap User's System that I have been gradually converting most of my smaller cuts of fabric to over the last several years of making her mystery quilts. But when you work with a quilt like the Good Fortune mystery that uses every single size of strips, you end up with a bit of a mess to clean up, and added to that, I have been cutting down scraps into strips for several months. So I took a Saturday and organized them all. Above are my 2" strips in rainbow order. I have a category I am calling MODs - Multi, Outlier and Disputed fabrics that you're not sure what color they should be filed under, or they push the boundary of what is "true" color, or I dispute with myself where they should be. Those are at the top, with blacks, browns and neutrals, and then the other colors.
 Here they are, neatly rolled into oblong groups, and some are bagged. There is a separate box for 2" squares and 2x3.5" bricks. The genius of this system is that if you have done all this precutting, which is fun in itself for someone like me anyway, the moment that inspiration strikes you can simply go to your box of strips and pull out the colors you need to start sewing. And when you're done, there is a system for storing it neatly and mostly out of sight.
 Above and below, the 3.5" strips.
There aren't as many of them, but I followed the Marie Kondo method for displaying them on end, so it sparks joy.
 These are the 2.5" strips, during and after. Sorting them brought back a memory of the 3 Scrappy Trip Around the World blocks I made back in 2013. So this was just the first time I sorted them, and the second time resulted in pulling enough 16" long strips to make an entire quilt.
 I also sorted the 1.5" strips, but I'm not sure I photographed them, because I was getting tired by that time. The bottom line, though, is that a little time spent organizing your fabric into strips, and sometimes squares and bricks, pays off big time when you want to start a quilt on the spur of the moment.
So here are the six-year-old Scrappy Trip Around blocks combined with three more. I'm working on about #30 now of the 48 I want. More pictures next time.

Saturday, May 4, 2019


Well, I am averaging about two blog posts a month so far in 2019, which is better than last year.

Since last posting I finished the Epitome of Me socks, originally begun in the Lots of Socks knitalong.

I would add the photo, but I have been using my i-phone for all my photos, which means that I must download them onto my laptop from my i-cloud before I can crunch them in Photoscape and add them to my blog. But they have recently started compressing them into a zip file when I download, and then when I tried to move the zip files to my to-be-crunched folder, it tells me it will be about 3 hours before the files are transferred. Thanks, Apple, you are supposed to make my life easier, but this is not it!

Okay, it is downloading photos at the rate of about one every 10 minutes, (still about 3 hours left to go) and this is the finished pair of socks. I gave them to Quarta, and I gave the Flower Shock socks to Emma. I am currently knitting on the first of the "Sara Elin" socks in Malabrigo purple yarn. I am just about ready, finally, to begin the ribbing.

That will be it for the photos this post. We have been busy with Steve traveling, Quarta requiring doctor visits for her dislocated knee (she has had two braces so far and will begin PT next week), Quarta's school play (she was Miss Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, and fortunately the long dress hid her knee brace), a little bit of gardening, and the usual amount of adulting.

I finished one of my two baby quilts, and have started quilting the other. I'm using my regular machine; I've still not gotten back into using the Megaquilter.

This means I have fallen way behind on my UFO goals for the year. The May number is 4: that means (runs to check journal) the Manu cardigan, and a machine quilting finish. (That would be Celtic Solstice, still on the Megaquilter since a long time ago).

A nice lady in our neighborhood is downsizing her fabric stash and I have twice visited her sale in the last two weeks. I am still working on sorting, pre-cutting and organizing my scrap fabrics, so this just prolongs the mess and the fun.

Oh yes, a quick recipe before I go: Lovage Pesto is where I started, having made it once before with hemp seeds and a bit of bought basil pesto, and I changed it up a bit. I'm planning on cooking some pasta to put it over and bringing it to fellowship meal tomorrow.

Lovage and Rosemary Pesto

3 C Lovage leaves, chopped, parboiled for 3 minutes, cooled in cold water bath and squeezed dry
about 3/4 C Rosemary leaves, all stem bits removed and chopped roughly
a little parsley (we don't have much in our garden this year)
a little thyme, just one sprig
many garlic cloves, maybe 12
about 1 t kosher salt
several grinds of black pepper
about 1 C walnuts, toasted for 10 min at 350

Chop/pulse in food processor; add about 1/2 C olive oil or as much as it needs to become smooth.

I sampled this on wheat thins and everyone approved. The food processor is the $25 mini they sell at Costco; I never had one before so this is a marvelous new to me technology. I'm going to experiment with all kinds of pesto now.

I have Latin translation lessons to do, so I should sign off now. Maybe I can do a photo sharing post in the next few days, after downloading and processing all those zipped photos. I'll try for an average of more than 2 posts in May.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Potato Leek Soup with Lovage, Rosemary and Bacon

Last week there was a fellowship dinner at church and I didn't really want to stress too much with the preparation, because we had a lot planned to coordinate. Quarta returned from Mexico very early Sunday morning (and with a knee injury which we didn't know about until then), Steve was going to need to pick up Steve's mom and take her and Quarta in one car to the service only while Tertia and I went earlier for Sunday school. Anyway, this soup fit the bill.

If you haven't tried lovage, it's an herb that is in the celery/parsley family, is an easy to grow perennial, and is abundant this time of year. It's a strong flavor, kind of like celery on steroids... a little bitter even, but it mellows with cooking. It is growing very well in our garden at the moment, and was used quite a bit by the ancient Romans - so it has that historical appeal going for it as well. Anyway, this soup turned out very well and I'm only sad there were no leftovers.

1 large leek, cleaned, cut in half lengthwise and chopped (including the green tops if they are tender enough)
1 large onion, chopped

Saute in about 3 T butter or olive oil, or a mix of both. Add

1-2 stalks celery, chopped
2 stalks fresh lovage with leaves, chopped finely
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed from stems and finely chopped (about 1 T)

When soft, add

4-6 C water
1 T vegetable soup base
4-5 peeled, diced potatoes

Cook until tender (above picture). Soup can then rest in fridge overnight until ready to finish, or you can transfer it to a crock pot for the rest of the steps.


about 2 C milk
about 1/2 C heavy cream
1-2 handfuls of crumbled bacon bits (Costco sells these in bags, and we always have one in the freezer)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook on low (whether in the crock pot or on the stove) until thoroughly heated but avoid letting it boil. I kept the crock pot on low during Sunday school and turned it to "warm" during the church hour.

I can't decide if it's the lovage or the rosemary, or both, that make this potato soup a cut above the average. Definitely the bacon helps too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Spring Break Recap

Spring Break had a different feel to it this year. Steve kept working, Quarta went to Mexico on a work trip with Cedar Tree, and Emma stayed home with me. We did a few small things around the house, went swimming at the community center once and signed her up for her pass card to swim more for free, but were mostly pretty lazy. I did go to the Quiltfest Northwest, put on by the Clark County Quilters, held at the fairgrounds.
There is a Vancouver Tapestry, which is really long so it isn't displayed that often. I had never seen it before, but it depicts in beautiful wool-on-linen embroidery the history of Clark County.
This was probably my favorite of the quilts displayed, and I could imagine being able to make it myself. One of the themes was blue and white quilts.

This one went wild with Kaffe Fassett fabrics.
The work on this was stunning. It reminded me a little of my tree quilt, but the little flying geese circles in the middle border would be incredibly difficult.
 Another one with a strong Kaffe influence.
 There were several city and traffic-themed quilts, which I captured for my civil engineer husband. This one is "roundabout."
 the London metro
 abstract traffic control
and an actual intersection in Portland.

The show was very nicely organized and I enjoyed it a great deal. One of these years I should finish all my unquilted tops.

The three of us who were home went one day to the Oregon Historical Society museum. It depicts the history of the Northwest but mostly Oregon, from a woke intersectional perspective. So you learn about the history of the Northwest from the perspective of all the people who might have felt marginalized by their treatment at the time: early African-American settlers, gays, women, Native Americans, Hispanics, and immigrants. But the Whitman missionaries were, it is strongly implied, probably responsible for their own massacre because of their insensitivity, or something.

I finished the second sock of Grellow Love by Clare Devine. The first counted toward the Lots Of Socks knitalong for World Down Syndrome Day, but the second did not. It is a fun and easy pattern to knit and I will probably use this heel in other socks.
Likewise I finished the second sock of Flower Shock by Anna Friberg.  I discovered that the mystery green yarn is Hazel Knits; the contrasting color bands are all different segments of two colorways of Knit Picks Chroma fingering. They are very pretty socks, although I wonder how practical because of the Chroma, which is not going to be very hard wearing. And it was Anna, known as Yarnesty, who informed me I had won two free patterns from her collection as a prize in the knitalong! So I checked her patterns on Ravelry and chose the Fergus socks and the Bjorko shawl. I look forward to knitting them soon... and maybe going shopping for more yarn! I'm adding to my queue faster than I'm getting projects done, but I've always enjoyed having an extensive queue.

Quarta returned from Mexico with an injured knee which required a doctor visit today and will need an orthopedist check tomorrow. The kneecap briefly dislocated and then popped back in place, which she may just be more prone to because it happened once to her other knee. This time there is more swelling but we don't think any permanent damage. We'll see. Spring is really getting into gear and we have lots of pretty flowers, which I may share next time I blog.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

World Down Syndrome Day, and Lots of Socks

So, World Down Syndrome Day, 3-21, was Thursday, and so was the meeting of Young Life Capernaum. I've been taking Tertia there in recent months, and she really enjoys it. It was Disney Day for the theme, so naturally she dressed as Belle. They had a "dance or dare" contest and of course she chose dance! Improvising moves to "Try Everything" from Zootopia, I think she was a hit! Even when her tiara needed adjusting.

 The Lots of Socks knitalong hosted by Lisa K. Ross is over and drawings for prizes will be held next week. I finished a total of 10 socks, including this one of Flower Shock by Anna Friberg. This is the first time I've ever purchased a pattern (or anything for that matter) in Swedish Kronor. It's a lovely lace pattern that is more fun for me to knit than most lace, and I'm excited to make the other sock soon. I used a mystery yarn from my friend Joyce and color segments from two different half-balls of Chroma. The heel is an afterthought, which is the first time I think I've ever done one. You knit with provisional yarn, and then you go back and knit with your regular yarn, and then you have to put pick up stitches and knit them from both sides of the provisional yarn, then decrease the heel, then Kitchener it together.
This is what it looked like after picking up the stitches on both sides. Kind of cool!
 Grellow Love by Clare Devine. I'm calling mine "Grumpkin." It uses a "fleegle" heel, which is pretty similar to my standard toe-up gusset heel, but in a contrast color. I've already started the gusset on the second, so this will be a pair soon, hopefully next week.
 These are my single socks that still need a mate.
 And these are the socks I wore on Thursday; Lots of Socks and Non-Euclidian.

All told, the Lots of Socks knitalong raised more than $18,000 for Down Syndrome International, which will help support people with Down syndrome in various countries of the developing world.
The plum tree is quite happy for the arrival of spring.
I am quite happy too; we have daffodils, forsythia, Daphne and camellias blooming now.

Speaking of spring; I was surprised that we had the Equinox and then a full moon in the sky, but this Sunday is not Easter. (Because my mother taught me, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring). Steve figured it out for me with some googling: the exact moment of the full moon was actually a little before the exact moment of the vernal Equinox. So although I was quite prepared to channel Bede and complain about the improper observation of Easter, I bow to the astronomers who have these pesky technical details all figured out. Unlike me... I still have a difficult time with editing my photos for the blog; probably one of the reasons I haven't been blogging as much.

Speaking of the blog, I reverted to my original dandelions blowing in the wind theme. I never quite enjoyed the clean-cut blues I have had. Maybe that will spur me on to blog more. And yes, today is Randomday, so by my own blog rules, I can blog about whatever I want. Since I was blogging about a specific subject today, I'll save most randomness for a future date.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Knitting Lots of Socks, and Taking Stock

Since the beginning of February, I have been knitting socks. Lots of Socks for the #LotsofSocksKAL hosted on Ravelry by Paper Daisy Creations. Together, we have raised a good bit of money for Down Syndrome International to use in providing support and advocacy for people with Down syndrome in developing countries. We have until May 21, World Down Syndrome Day, to knit our socks and enter them in the prize drawings. Personally, I have bought 11 patterns (I think) from 7 different designers, finished three matching pairs and two individual socks, and am working on socks 9, 10, and 11, for a total of 8 different patterns attempted. I want to knit more, but there are only so many hours a day to knit and binge-watch Marie Kondo, West Wing, Designated Survivor, and NCIS.
 Lots of Socks by Lisa K. Ross is the title featured pattern designed by the hostess of the knitalong. It was immediately a pattern I just had to buy... mind you, until this knitalong I had never bought a sock pattern, just a few books in the past and free patterns from the early days of Ravelry. Truthfully, I was kind of in a rut when it came to socks, just doing toe-up socks for Steve and the boys mostly. I had to learn a special cast-on by "Tillybuddy" which is stretchy like the Twisted German (or is it Old Norwegian?) but is done two stitches at a time, so goes kind of quickly. I also loved knitting the mosaic pattern on these... it is fun and fast with color-changing yarns in the same way that I find knitting my diamond lattice dishcloths entertaining.
The resulting sock fabric is warm and very squooshy. I used Knit Picks Chroma for the color gradient, which is a single yarn, but it hasn't disintegrated yet after two wearings. I knit these socks one at a time, so though it was the first sock cast on in February, it was not the first finished pair.
 Here is my first completed pair: Non-Euclidian by Sarah Jordan.
These socks feature a clever diamond/triangle heel shaping designed to not break up self-striping yarns. This is some Knit-Picks Hawthorne and doesn't have stripes, but it's a great vanilla sock recipe I will definitely return to again. I used Tillybuddy's cast-on again for its stretchiness, and once again had the chance to practice Kitchener stitch to close the toes. I don't have it memorized yet, it's on a 3x5 card, but with these two techniques there's no reason to fear top-down socks anymore. I definitely would like to knit these first two patterns again.
 Short Attention Span by Shannon Squire. These toe-up socks knitted up rather quickly because they were in Socks that Rock mediumweight, but the first sock was a little harder because I had a hard time memorizing the flying geese pattern and doing the heel at the same time. This heel used the W&T (wrap and turn) short row technique, which I had to research with you-tube videos before I attempted it. Every time I do wraps, I get very confused. I think I did them differently on the second heel, but I can't tell.
 And on to the single socks. This is Rough Waters by Lisa K. Ross again, from her collection of 4 sock patterns inspired by Narnia. It is toe-up and features a dropped stitch pattern and the thing I had to learn with this sock pattern was how to do German short row heels with something called a double stitch. This was completely new to me, but I'm glad I struggled through it. It was a struggle -- Emma had a nasty stomach bug while I was working on this and I was sleep-deprived, so very little made sense when I was trying to figure it out.
In the end, it is a very neat way of doing short rows and I will probably try to use it instead of the wrap and turn method in future socks. I look forward to completing the other sock in this pair.
 This is Epitome of Me by Megan Williams. They are toe-up also and feature a twist on either side going up the foot. I had to relearn twisted stitches, and the heel is something called an OMG (one-needle mock-gusset) heel that also uses German short rows with double stitch. So it was a great opportunity to practice that kind of short row in a very different configuration.
One done - these may be for Emma when they are finished. Also in progress but not pictured yet because it took me long enough to blog the socks so far -- Sara Elin by Vikki Bird, Grellow Love by Clare Devine, Flower Shock by Anna Friberg. I might just be able to get one of each of those socks done by March 21. I bought some beautiful Madeline Tosh Twist Light sock yarn and am thinking of buying yet another pattern by one of the featured designers, Coffee Talk by Traci Millar, and I really also want to cast on Voyage from the Narnia E-book by Lisa K. Ross. That's a lot of socks!

So, on to the "taking stock" part of the blog. I didn't finish any of my UFO goals for February (they were finishing quilting Celtic Solstice, and finishing my Rosalind sweater, as well as cleaning my craft area thoroughly and making a few baby quilts). But time marches on, and the UFO challenge # for March is 8. That means, for fiber arts, "spinner's choice" (I could theoretically justify ordering fiber), or I could just work on last month's neglected project. And for quilting it's the 1996 Piecemaker's calendar quilt, which needs quite a bit of applique before assembly. Or I could just knock out the machine quilting and baby quilts that need to be finished up from last month. Truth be told, I will be content with a lot of socks finished and new techniques learned, but I will definitely try to do some cleanup and organization in the process.

Here's to averaging more than two blog posts this month! Cheers!