Crafting in small spaces

We have a bit of an unusual life, Wadly and I. We live on twelve south-facing acres backed up to forty square miles of Weyerhaeuser on a dead end road off a dead end road mere minutes from the freeway. As locations go, it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s quiet and private here. From the top of our property we can look out over Shoestring Valley and see Mount St. Helens in the distance.

4×6 cutting/crafting table

Once our mortgage was paid off we decided living small was better than bigger fancier accommodations with its accompanying debt. Because our living space is small, engaging in crafts like quilting takes some innovating and good organizational skills. Having a table that will fold up out of the way when not needed is a crafty thing indeed. When it comes to crafting in a small space, it’s all about maximizing use of space!

Unless you have a family whose members require personal space, bedrooms are a waste. They’re one-use rooms not used for most of the day. I’ve always though Murphy beds were a really smart idea. They allow the bedroom to be more than one thing.

Table tilted up out of the way

Our bed is not a Murphy bed. It’s a metal frame that sits up high enough that storage bins can be placed beneath. To further maximize the space, I’ve mounted a 4×6 layout/cutting table on the footboard. The plywood base is covered by an Omnigrid mat I purchased from the factory on a Guild field trip. The mat is held to the table by tiny brass nails to keep it in place when the table is tilted up out of the way.

Let there be stars . . .

Eva's Confetti Stars
Eva’s Confetti Stars, made for Rachel’s glitter girl

I’m flirting with making a confetti stars quilt for my bed.  I have the batiks, I love the two quilts I made (baby and lap) and I’d like one for sleeping under, something with a dark background and bright batiks.  I think I’m going to do a sew-along . . . it’s a really easy pattern but it does require batiks for the stars.  If you want in, ping me.

 

Finding a home

Tie dyed batik broadcloth
Tie dyed batik broadcloth

I think we’ve all ended up with things too good or nice or unique to get rid of but with no place in which to put or use them.  I have a piece of fabric like that . . . a hand died batik on broadcloth.  I don’t quilt with broadcloth, I don’t wear those colors or that style . . . but 3 yards . . . yeah, couldn’t part with it.

It’s now an out-of-the-sun curtain and it works beautifully to keep light from reflecting onto my monitors.  And I look at it and smile . . . and think of the wonderful woman I inherited it from who also could not find a use for it but thought it was too good to get rid of.  Nice!

Life and aspiration

The edge matches the Maples carving.
The edge matches the carved Maples quilt.

Life’s been a bit chaotic lately.  I managed to sprain my right wrist and ignored it for the first week which of course made it worse.  It’s so hard to be good when I have to be doing something and it’s doubly hard when it’s the right hand that’s out of commission.  I haven’t rowed in two weeks and I’m going nuts.  Yoga.  Must do more yoga.

I ran across a picture of a Fraser Smith piece somewhere this morning.  Something on Facebook led to something that led to something . . . I ate the breadcrumbs as I went so can’t find my way back to the start.

Because Smith’s work fascinates me, I popped into his site again today to look. His work is food for my soul. I noticed his “If I am quiet . . . ?” is carved as if it’s done on the back of “Maples”.  I am going to have to make this quilt.  I don’t do arty stuff, I don’t spend time on stuff that isn’t usable for pretty much every day and I prefer working in batiks to anything else, but this quilt is one I’m going to have to do.  I just can’t help myself.  And I’m going to have to hand quilt it.  This one’s a double whammy.

The six zillion dollar question is . . . how closely do I replicate the work?  The quilting doesn’t go through the applique worked on the back.  Does that mean I have to applique the back after the quilting’s done?  It’s got to be done before the binding . . . Hm.

It took me over a year to work out how to sew the “30” quilt.  I wonder if this one will set a record for active planning time.

New and loving it

301A in a trapezoid table.
The picture my friend sent me.  It’s lovely!

 

Enough lint for three machines, packed in so tight it took extraordinary measures to get it all out.
Cleaning up.  Enough lint for three machines packed in so tight it took extraordinary measures to get it all out.

A friend, knowing I love Singer 301As and trapezoid cabinets, found one for me.  The cabinet’s a lovely thing, mahogany veneer with just a tiny chip on the right end of the under-table.  The 301 is a black short-bed that’s in really lovely shape, just needing a good cleaning and lube and new wiring.  The cleaned machine is very quiet and smooth and I had the necessary wiring in my stash of parts.

This machine came with three bobbins.  Two of the bobbins had four separate colors/lengths of thread each.  The remaining bobbin had seven different pieces/colors of thread wound on.  There was so much lint, packed in so tightly, I had to disassemble the bobbin carrier to get all the lint out.

If you’re wondering what makes a trapezoid table so special, it’s for two very nice reasons.  The left end of the table is hinged and the swings out to support the table extension when it’s open.  Secondly, because the shape of the table is shorter on the front than the back, the table extension wraps to the front just a bit making it easier to keep things on the table.

I’ve already sewing a bunch of quilt bindings and today I’ll use this lovely machine to put borders on a quilt top.  Color me happy.

The tree and the fog

Tree and fog. I’m lovin’ it!

I’ve got not quite a quarter of the honeycomb blocks done for the background on Lorr’s quilt.  In this picture I have only about half the finished fog on the wall.

It’s gone a bit slowly because I’ve been testing ironing seams this way, that way, pressed open . . . I think I’ve got what I want now.  I’m happy, happy, happy.

The colors, the variety, the textures.  Yup, I’m happy.  If all goes as planned, this will be a stunning quilt.

Now that the picture is up, can you see what’s wrong?  This is why pictures are so important!  In the very center of the picture, see the blue sky showing through the leaves?  Oops.  Can’t see the sky through the trunk.  I’ll have to replace that with a non-sky piece.  It’s the little things . . .

Auditioning fog

Test auditioning the fog fabric.
Drafting the template

Now that the leaf portion of the tree for Lorr’s quilt is done, I’m working on the background fog.  I don’t want it to be all one foggy piece of fabric, I want it to be more in keeping with the rest of the quilt, more random color and texture.

I’d been searching for over a year to find enough foggy batik fabrics for this part of Lorr’s quilt, but they just aren’t out there. Progress was at a halt.

Our Guild had a fabric dying workshop with the fabulous David Christensen.  I dyed 10 yards of batik quality fabric trying for perfect soft shades for the fog.  Some of the pieces are too dark, but not too many.  Overall, the result was a nice collection of soft greens, blues and grays with enough texture to be interesting.

I had originally intended to use one of the Dance template sets for this portion of the quilt, but I’ve since changed my mind.  I’m going with a machine sewn honeycomb block.  Sewing this block by machine isn’t for the faint of heart.  I’ve developed a technique that gives me accurate placement of the pieces.  I’ll try and get a tutorial together showing the technique.

I drafted the 2″x4″ template for the honeycomb block on pallet slip sheet cardboard.  I get this at the local feed store.  It’s a 4’x4′ sheet of thin cardboard that’s waxed or plasticized which makes it a little difficult to write on, but it makes great templates . . . and it’s free!

I used my cutting fabrics using cardboard templates technique so as not to damage my template.  The only adjustment I made was to not move any of the fabric for the second cut as it preps the end of the strip for the next template placement.

I think I’m going to like this block and fabric for the fog.  The sewing’s a bit tedious and nearly every seam is a Y seam, but I think the end result will definitely be worth the effort.

Striking a chord

Fantasy Petals

I get a weekly newsletter from Quilting Books, Patterns and Notions and I occasionally find inspiration therein.  This week the periodical has a lovely and splashy flower wall hanging that’s lovely, full of bright color and made from batiks.  Not only does the color sense suit my style, this would be a perfect pattern for machine pinning.  Perfect!  The pattern is available here.

A coat for Mindy

Light denim jacket

I bought a jacket pattern and have made a number of jackets from that pattern.  It’s three pattern pieces and it goes together really fast and is very comfortable.

I had some denim in my stash, some stretch, some red pinstriped, and I combined the two into a single garment that turned out really nice.  It’s going to my sister for her to wear at work.  I was really pleased with the jacket but this iteration really needed pockets.  Patching pockets to the outside would have ruined the appearance of the front so I made curved slits bound in red goat leather.  The pockets are stretch denim patched onto the inside and sewn down using navy thread to make then as invisible as I can make them.

Red goat hide bound pocket.

The back and sleeves are solid blue stretch denim which makes the jacket very comfortable while still looking classy/casual.  The red leather to match the pinstripes on the front makes a nice accent and the curved opening makes the pockets easy to use.  I’m altering the pattern one more time for a more fitted sleeve and a fold over shawl collar.  I’ve got some black stretch denim I’ll use for that iteration.

I had gotten one pocket put on and was taking a break to eat lunch when my 35 year old Viking 6750 suddenly started running and billowing smoke.  <wince>  I unplugged it and set it out on the deck to finish smoking where I didn’t have to breathe it.  I figure if it was smoking I wasn’t going to be repairing it anytime soon.

Knitting

My mother was an awesome knitter. She could also crochet like nobody’s business. There wasn’t a baby born that she knew of that wasn’t blessed with something from her hands. Growing up we all wore sweaters she knitted.  I still wear a pair of wool socks she knitted.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t knitted for me but they shrunk to where I’m the one they fit!  <grin>  I can live with that!

Patrons Stretch Sock yarn on size 1 needles.

I was searching for something . . . I can’t even remember what, and I ran across an online knitting magazine. Therein I found discussion regarding magic cast on for socks. The technique was so cool I just HAD to try it. So here is Judy’s magic cast on!

I’m halfway through the heel turn and I’m using a modified Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Turn.  Instead of dividing the stitches into thirds (two for the heel, one for the front) for three sets of increases I’m greatly increasing the number of heel stitches for the first and third set of short rows while decreasing (not proportionally) the center set.  This should allow the heel turn to better fit my ankle and heel.

Pattern?  Yeah, not using a pattern.  I never have.  I do the math to figure out how many stitches/rows for the needle/yarn combo and run with it.  The last knit project I made was a denim/navy heather double yarn short jacket worked on big needles.  It had pockets, a collar and a big brass zipper up the front.  I wore that jacket for a long time, passing it on when I was done wearing it.  That was a lot of years ago.

I watched another video about a technique called “magic loop” which allows socks to be knitted on a single long circular needle.  I’m not so enamored with that.  I really like using two short circular needles to knit small round stuff.

My mom’s entire stash of needles has only one size 1 16″ circular needle and it’s got a rough join where the cable fastens to the tips which makes sliding the work from one tip to the other a bit of a chore.  I could live with it but a set of newer needles would be better.  I’ve got plenty of double-ended needles but I prefer cable needles.

I tried to find new needles locally but no joy.  I bought bamboo needles at Michael’s but I knit pretty tight and the yarn doesn’t slide on the bamboo needles easily enough to suit me AND the join between the needle and the cable is not seamless.  The join uses a metal collar to connect the parts and it doesn’t look very sturdy AND looks like it would snag fine yarn.  Maybe they might work great for someone who doesn’t knit tightly, but they aren’t going to work well for me.

Terry stopped in at the local knit shop but they don’t carry aluminum circular needles.  I ordered two 16″ size 1 circular needles from a vendor on Amazon but the join where the cable meets the aluminum tip is two full sizes bigger than the needle.  Tell me where the logic is in that?  There is no way I could get my work off the tip and onto the cable.  I can’t even use them until I make a draw die and fine down that lump!  Plus the cable’s so stiff I would have to fight it constantly while I’m working.  I’m going to have to heat the cable up and cool it straight, and even then that’s not a perfect solution.

I was at Fabric Depot yesterday and they had the same needles I got on Amazon with the same two-sizes-larger lumps where the two materials join.  Been there, got those.  They also had the bamboo needles I got at the local craft store with the you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me yarn snagging pin-punched metal collar join.  <wince>  Next trip to town those are going back.  There’s nothing I can do to fix them and make them usable.

Fabric Depot also had a needle I’ve never seen before . . . squared off tips on cables, a square circular needle!  I know that sounds kind of strange, but the needles really are square and the cable is real soft and flexible.  I bought two short (16″) and 1 long (42″?) and I’ve got my sock transferred to the new 16″ needles.  The tip length fits in my hand perfectly, they don’t have that stupid bend in the aluminum right before the tip meets the cable, the cable is soft and doesn’t interfere with my knitting and I am mostly in love.  They do have one draw-back.

The butt of the tip, where the tip joins the cable, has a rounded end into which the cable merges.  This causes a small but abrupt “hip” which stops the loops of yarn from sliding smoothly back onto the tip.  With that in the way I can’t just shove the loops back onto the needle, I have to stop and coax them from the cable onto the tip.  Despite this work-slowing design flaw, the needles are an improvement over the other needles I purchased.

When I’m done with this pair of socks I’ll rework the butt join to see if I can solve this problem, either reshaping the hip to a more gradual 45° slant or developing a collar to sit against the hip to ease the transition.  It would be perfect if the manufacturer would change the design to fix this as it’s a drawback to an otherwise perfect knitting needle.  I’m having so much fun knitting socks I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to knit more than one pair and I refuse to fight every transfer of stitches from cable to needle.

One more nice thing about this needle . . . the size and length are stamped right into the tip.  I don’t have to dig out my needle gauge to make sure I’ve grabbed the right size.  Sweet!  Now, if they were just as perfect everywhere else . . .

A new project

Nostrils and tail yet to do, but looking good!

I started a new project last night.  I haven’t been able to appliqué for a couple years so I’m really excited about this.

I’ve wanted to try some new stuff.  A friend supplied the material and will get the resulting coat.  I’ve made tests of the coat pattern (A Little Something), made the necessary adjustments and I’m ready to go!

This is a three color coat.  The left side of the jacket is purple batik.  The right is green batik and the accent is ink navy.  The sleeve bottom and coat bottom will be bordered in Oriental Dance blocks.

This bit of the project is all hand appliqué.  The horse head pattern is on a piece of paper on the back.  I sew the three layers together (paper, background and foreground) using a sewing machine and staying on the pattern lines.  From the front I carefully cut the foreground material away and, as I unpick the stitching, I turn the edge under on the stitching line and appliqué the foreground down to the background being careful not to catching the paper in the stitching.  This technique gives me accurate and flat appliqué.  It always looks like the appliqué was just ironed flat.  So far, so good!  I think it’s looking awesome!

I’m not sure how it’s going to be quilted.  I may give Karen the background and batting and have her pin the coat pieces to it and quilt them.  So far I’ve got the pattern pieces cut extra big so there’s room around the outside to stitch it down to the backing before it’s mounted on the quilting machine.  That might work.  You can tell I’m still pondering this part.

 

Ribbons at the fair

LouAnn has been entering her quilting and canning in our local fair for years.   I’m fortunate that she drags my quilts along for the ride.

This year I have three quilts entered in the fair.  LouAnn called yesterday to tell me they had all received blue ribbons.  While that’s nice, it was even more exciting to hear her grape quilt had been considered for the grand poo-bah prize.  That’s pretty awesome!

Note:  LouAnn called to tell me Sunset on the Farm got People’s Choice at the fair.  How nice!

Ribbons galore

Vendor's Choice and a first place in the "Other" category

Wreath of Life hanging in Karen's booth

The quilt show is over and two of my quilts did really well.

The Sunset quilt got People’s Choice the second day and second in the pieced category.

The Ichthy Bog Coat got a Vendor’s Choice ribbon and a first in the “Other” category.

Even better, LouAnn’s grape quilt got People’s Choice the very first day!  That rocks!  And Karen‘s been asked to teach the Square Dance (block used as the border on the bog coat) at two different location!  That really rocks!

LouAnn’s Wreath of Life quilt hung in Karen’s booth and many asked for the pattern.  We all agree the quilt would have been pretty without the pieced background, but the large Dance block in pastels behind the appliqué really added to the depth and richness of the quilt.

Almost home

Sunset at the farm
Nested stars
Confetti Stars aka “The Wood Quilt”

 

My three quilts are almost home.  They hung at the Pe Ell Quilt Show over the July 4th weekend but they still have two more stops to make before I get to sleep under them.

In two weeks they hang again at the RDQG Quilt Show, then a month later they hang at the SWW Fair.

Confetti Stars got best comfort sized quilt at the Pe Ell show.  That’s nice!

Eva’s Confetti Stars

Starting to look like a quilt . . .

I’ve got the majority of the body put together.  I need to cut blocks to fill in the edges.  I need to get baby quilt (non-flammable) rayon batting and some pretty pink and green or purple and green flannel for the back.  I won’t add borders.  This is supposed to be a drag around quilt as she gets older so there’s no point in getting fancy or “heirloomy”.

Eva’s confetti stars

Eva's Confetti Stars

I have had to find a new vendor for template cutting and in the process of getting templates cut I’ve had to retest some of the templates.  Because the Confetti Stars is cut from strip sets, and because I hate to waste material, I’ve elected to take the testing down a productive path.  Baby quilt!

I saw my friend Rachel at Safeway Thursday.  She’s got a new baby girl she and Travis have named Eva.  If I can get this finished and quilted little Eva will be able to sleep under the stars!

 

Starting my first pair of lasted shoes

My foot is 8¼” long by 4″ wide.  For a 5’3″ tall woman weighing ~200 lbs, that’s not much foot and the relation of length to width makes it an EEEEEE.  Yup, that was six Es.  My sister’s foot is the same, though she’s quite a bit finer boned than I am and probably weighs just a bit less.  She has mom’s bone structure, I have dad’s.  Her face is oval, mine is square.  She has long oval fingernails and I have short square fingernails.  Why our feet are the same size . . . <shrug> . . . it’s genetics.

Because there is no company on this earth that I am aware of that makes shoes that are designed to fit my feet, I’ve taken to making my own footwear, for better or worse.  And because, as I’m sure you’re aware if you’ve spent any time on this site at all, I do things my own way, the methods and steps I used to create my first pair of shoes differ from those who seriously embrace classic cordwaining.   I’m sure by now I’ve got the folks on the cordwaining forum mentally throwing stones at me.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least gently stir the pot a little.

So here we go, my first pair of lasted shoes.

My last

Because I cannot purchase a last that will produce a shoe that will fit my feet, I have to start with a last.  I made boxes to use as containers for molding my feet.  I mixed alginate, poured it in the boxes and stepped in.  For small feet like mine I used a total of three 1lb bags of alginate which I got from my wonderful dentist.

Once the alginate set I wiggled my feet free, mixed plaster of paris and filled the molds to the brim.

Once the plaster of paris had set I tore the alginate apart to release the plaster feet therein.

I built up the plaster foot form with more plaster to give myself a toe box shape.  As you can see I didn’t add enough to the length and ended up having to add more length after I got the resin last.  I also shaped and filled in rough spots.

After the plaster was dry I cleaned up the plaster feet and sent them to my son for casting in a two part resin.  The result is what you see.  The screws allow the last to be taken apart for easy removal from the shoe.

Leather molded to the bottom of the last

To make sure the last would give me the right shape for my foot I molded a piece of leather to the bottom.  When I stepped into this form with my sock-clad foot, I could tell I was on the right track.

Let’s get leafy

Lovely fall colors

I’ve gotten a good start on the tree top for Lorr’s quilt.  I think it’s going to be lovely.  The quilt isn’t as complex as the sunset quilt so, when I have time to work on it, it’s going together pretty fast.  I still need dark browns, charcoal/ink navy/midnight green fabric for the border and silvery pale blues for the background behind the tree.

This is going to be a simple yet striking quilt that Lorr and Patty should be able to use without fear of ruining something of heirloom quality.

Glorious color

The glorious tree-top color

I sorted fabric two days ago and started cutting the treetop yesterday.  I mumbled something to Wadly about scaffolding so I could walk back and forth while applying color to the top of my design wall.  I think he’s a bit aghast at the concept of  having more construction like stuff in the house.  I have a step stool to use for now . . . wholly inadequate but it’s what I’ve got.

Maybe I should give him a choice . . . 8 foot step ladder or scaffolding . . . <evil grin>

Lorr’s Quilt

Line drawing of Lorr's quilt
Dance template will be used for grass section
Blunt pinwheel for tree truck blocks
Oriental pinwheel for the leaves.

image

My next big quilt is going to be for my son and his SO.  He and Patty both like fall colors, so I’m doing a tree in glorious fall oranges and reds using the watercolor technique I used for the sunset.

This time I want to use a variety of blocks and not set them in columns and rows.  I want the application of the color to be less organized so I’ll set some of the parts askew and join the blocks of like colors in a running bond pattern where I can.

I have designed four different types of the pinwheel blocks.  One produces a triangular block which, when assembled produces six pointed nested pinwheels when the color is organized.  The pinwheel element is the sharpest of the blocks and I’ll use this one as grass.

I have a blunt pinwheel block that I’ll use for the tree trunk and a rounded pinwheel I’ll use for the leaves.

I’ll use the square dance block (same as the sunset quilt) for the backgound.

I’m having trouble finding pale silvery blues for the background.  I’ve got lots of yellow/orange/red/burgundy for the leaves and lots of green for the grass but I could use more dark grayish brownish for the tree trunk and more charcoal darks for the 8″ border.