Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Edible Color Palette

I just got back from traveling to visit my daughter's family and have been AWOL from quilting of late. I cannot give quilting my full attention just yet because I have other commitments, but there is no reason I cannot enjoy fulfilling those previous engagements. How does the song go again? "Girls just wanna have fun". I choose to have fun. Color is not always about fabric and playing with color is FUN. So I am having a blast preparing the tablescape for a small dinner party I will be hosting tomorrow, two days before Halloween.

I wanted a classy Halloween feel but not a gross zombie atmosphere nor the garish primary orange of a kid's crayon box. I found a tablecloth on clearance at HomeGoods in a burnt orange tone that I think is yummy - like the top of the créme brulee which I will be serving for dessert. But I needed to be careful to steer away from the olive greens and mustard golds that harbinger Thanksgiving rather than Halloween.

I decided go the route of  a black and white stripe in some way to add sophistication. I'd seen some striped placemats at the gift shop of Alden Lane Nursery during the quilt show there this year. I bought them "on spec". Black napkins with brassy-gold napkin rings looked elegantly spooky - reminding me of a black cat with glowing amber eyes. I plan to insert yellow roses into the mini-pumpkins I bought for each place setting.

The burnt orange and black combination was a bit somber so I spiked it up with some more bright yellow accents - the candy corn I used a vase filler and the bright yellow Meyer Lemon scented pillar candles I added above. At HomeGoods I also found a cute, small, black and white striped, glossy pitcher and will use it for gravy or some sauce.

I dug around a bit and extracted my vintage Courac ware from the late 19790's - early 1980's out of the deep environs and back corners of my cabinets. The black and gold colors fit well into my theme. I was really into owls back then and happily they work well with a Halloween holiday. Serendipity! By the way, in the photo, that is not a flame under his tail feathers, just a reflection from the light above. He looks like he is a phoenix perched above the fire of his spontaneously combusting predecessor.

I plan to use my black and white Barnyard Toile place settings. The images themselves are not eerie or scary or in theme since they are really more country, but the colors go well and they are kind of classy and I lie that they are high gloss. As luck would have it, the chair seats go well with the burnt orange tablecloth.

I picked up some small ceramic ware in black and white stripes and polka dots. I will use them as accent bowls, probably for nuts to sprinkle on the salads as desired.

At The Dollar Tree store I could not resist picking up this mini-coffin for treats. Reese's mini peanut butter cups in gold wrapping or Werther's original caramel candies in their gold foil will look good in there.

Seeing the coffin lid inspired me to  add a lime green grosgrain ribbon bow to the pumpkin-rose place decorations to add a bit of zip. I like the look of the green apples and how they play off the "Booooo". I plan to keep a romaine leaf salad in the same color theme by adding raisins for black, carrots and mandarin segments for orange, sunshine-colored bell peppers and cheddar cheese for yellow, granny smith apples for lime green, hard boiled egg slices for a bulls-eye white and yellow dot motif.

I am not quilting this week, but this is still playing with color and a work in progress. I am having fun. When the dinner company is gone, and the dishes are done, I can re-direct my efforts back to the sewing room and a more traditional form of color play. First I need to clear my cutting table from half a suitcase's worth of the yarn, patterns, fabrics, books, instructions, and notions I dragged along with me on my recent travels. This assortment does not even reflect what I took out and left with my daughter. Can you understand better why I'd rather procrastinate-and-play instead of putting-away?

Now I will connect up with others who are having fun with their WIPs at this week's Freshly Pieced. link-up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Crocheting for Isaiah

I just got back yesterday from visiting my daughter's home in Oklahoma. While there I finished crocheting a sweater for my grandson, three-month-old Isaiah. I'd picked a color palette consisting of two soft greens, and one each pale and medium browns. It hints at being like camouflage, which should please his daddy, but one of the greens has a brighter lilt to it to please me and his mom. Boy colors seems a bit more restrictive to me, but that might just be old-fashioned thinking on my part.

I had hoped to have the sweater completed to take with me but ran into a whole slew of problems. I made the back just as the instructions directed. But when I reach the shoulder shaping I was supposed to have twelve stitches along the back neck and I had more like twenty stitches between the shoulders.

I did not notice until I had completed the back that there had been no instructions to decrease and taper around the armholes as there had been on left and right fronts. The back armholes were not as deep as the front ones, also. The rows had not followed the same sequence of single crochets and double crochets. I wondered if that could be part of the design, to introduce a bit of variety. Perhaps more double crochet rows and fewer single crochet rows could account for why there were fewer total rows on the back. I checked several times and I did what was directed. I was a bit discouraged and lost my momentum since I had to stop and figure out what should have been done.

I set the body aside and forged ahead to do the sleeves. Here they are. On the left is a a view from the upper arm. On the right is a view from the underarm. Note twisting seam that spiral upward to the left. I think that is not the pattern but rather my inexperience in determining which is the first stitch of a round so I drifted. The pattern was rated intermediate but maybe I was too ambitious. Oh, well. It is not extremely noticeable unless I point it out, and the seams will be underneath Isaiah's arms when the sweater is on him.

I noticed I discussed the spiraling issue in my blog post for August 1, 2013 where I show his sister's sweater and I apparently did it correctly there. Interesting that when I went back and reviewed my post, I was having the same issues back then with the seam drifting and the rectangles being leaning parallelograms and not at right angles. On Isaiah's sweater I had needed to rip out and crochet again the body up to the armholes twice because the first time it leaned to one side. Both his sister's sweater and his sweater came from the same book, Oh Baby, Crochet. The boy's sweater came from a different pattern than the girl's. There were no scallops on the front but it still had contrasting edging and was made from four colors.

I checked on line for errata for the back of the sweater and googled several sites but found no corrections so I invented my own. I typed in the instructions for the left and right fronts in the outer columns and in the middle column made my best guess at what might work for the back. Notice my creative row numbering 28.1, 29.1, etc. I made sure I had twelve stitches between shoulders at the top neckline and similar curving at the arm hole edges. I decided to forgo mixing up single crochet and double crochet rows and made sure that the back armholes came out the same depth and shape as the front armholes.

I managed to complete the crocheting on the sweater parts at home before leaving for my daughter's. I assembled it and added the front band and buttons in the evenings while I was at her house. I could not pass up using these cute, chubby owl buttons. The holes were small enough though, that I had to sew them on with thread rather than yarn.

I place five, rather than four, buttons going up the front. The front band has a nice design feature. It had a central region of double crochets so there are no worries over where to place the buttonholes. You just slip the button in between two double crochets. Here is the completed sweater along with a matching beanie.

I started and completed crocheting the matching hat while I was there. I had no problems making it other than my eyes getting blurry because I stayed up too late, determined to complete it before leaving to return home. I added an owl button accent to the turned-up brim.

Success! It fits! Here it is being modeled by Isaiah himself.

I'd also stayed up late the night before may husband and I traveled out there whipping out this pair of burp cloths. I thought the alphabet and houndstooth prints were masculine but still baby precious.

I still need to unpack from traveling and get settled back in at home. But blogging and linking up to this week's Freshly Pieced WIP is much more enticing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rooster Placemats

I'd bought the fabrics for these placemats when I last visited my daughter in Oklahoma. My grandson Isaiah had just been born and he went on his first jaunt to a quilt shop. I blogged about his visit in my July 29, 2015 post and about my purchases during that trip in my post for August 5, 2015 post. I had decided to make placemats to work on my FMQ skills and to practice mitered corners. Placemats would be a small enough project to accomplish both. My timetable to make them got moved up because I was planning a visit to my daughter's; her mother-in-law would be there at the same time. Her MIL had just decorated her kitchen with a rooster theme so I thought I might surprise her with a little gift.

Remembering and organizing:
I'd bought one repeat of the rooster fabric. It had six roosters but I'd originally planned to make only four placemats so I would not need to skimp on the red border. I am glad I blogged about the rooster fabric. I had forgotten how I had planned to deploy it and the post jogged my memory. I find that when I blog, I often need to refer back to my posts to see what I had planned to do with a project or purchase when I have set aside for a bit. Reviewing my blog entries also helps me ferret out answers to those "Whatever was I thinking?" questions.

I looked up what the standard size for placemats is and it was about 14" x 18".  Since I'd only bought ¾ yard of the backing, I would need to skim a bit off that 14" height dimension. I planned to make the mat asymmetric and use a larger area off to the right to practice some FMQ patterns. This design would work out in an informal setting where the plate could be to the left and all the flatware together on the right. As I cut the strips and sections for the placemats I organized them together with Wonder Clips not pins. These really are handy little notions. I am only gripping two layers of fabric here, but they work really well for grouping items with several thicknesses.

Assembling and quilting:
I poured through my scraps of batting trying to find small pieces enough for placemats but in the end had to cut into a piece large enough for a crib size quilt. Oh, well. I am sure there are some cloth books in my future. The quilt sandwich clung so neatly and firmly in layers that I felt I could forgo the spray basting and pinning. I got to try out a new stitch-in-the-ditch pressure foot for my Pfaff to secure some key places. That leading blade works very well at keeping the stitching line straight without jumping out of the groove but I did learn it helps to stretch the seam open a bit to aid in getting the stitching nestled deeper into the ditch.

I sewed a few other straight lines on my domestic with the feed dogs engaged before I intended to move over to my HQ-16 sit down mid-arm to do some curves and some ruler work. In the rectangular section on the right side of the placemats I had planned to use the new HQ Mini Scallop Ruler™ I had just purchased .

I was trying to decide the orientation of the scallops – horizontal, vertical, or on a diagonal like the dots. I began to fret over if the repeat of the scallop would interfere with the dot repeat. Then I decided I had a natural grid so why fight it. I opted to keep it simple. Sometimes less is more and I stayed on my domestic and put diagonal straight lines only on the right section.

I guess I really did want something squiggly though. I put wavy lines in the upper and lower band with feed dogs of my Pfaff still engaged, slaloming around the dots in a selected row.

Once I'd come that far I also sewed around the rooster, rotating the placemat. As luck would have it, I ran out of bobbin thread on the fourth placement with just a short stretch to complete at the roosters butt. It is marked as the space between the two pins. Aargh... a minor annoyance but no big deal.

Part of the point of this placemat exercise was to get facile with rulers and my HQ-16. But sometimes the fabric just speaks to you in a different way. Just because you have a hammer, all the world is not necessarily a nail. I never did use Heidi (my HQ-16). Maybe I will on the next set of placemats.

Binding and fabric storage:
The grey dots and backing fabric had been pre-decided. I planned to bind the mats with the "magic binding" method because I wanted to introduce a spark of yellow and that approach is conducive to successful machine finishing. I'd last used the magic binding on my Fun Guys quilt. Its turquoise with orange accent can be seen in my post for June 17, 2015. I auditioned several yellow options, picking the brightest so it would show up, finishing only ⅛" wide. It is the brightest one on the bottom left. It had originally been my first choice but I thought I did not have enough of it. It had been folded in my stash like a fat quarter and I calculated I needed closer to a half-yard. Good fortune smiled on me. It was under a half-yard, but just barely, and so I could use it after all. I did not learn this until I had pulled three other yellows from my stash. 

I have different folding sequences in my stash that allow me to tell at a glance how much of a fabric I have. My self-imposed rule is that a length of fabric has to be at least a particular amount to qualify for the associated folding sequence. Then I get pleasantly surprised if I have more than I need, instead of disappointed that I am short. (My daughter sorts by color; my method drives her crazy when she come to "shop" my stash. It is her birthday today, by the way. Happy Birthday, Robin!) The ones on the right were bright enough but I thought that the pattern was sufficiently large that a narrow accent would appear to keep changing color and be distracting. The straw like one with the woven pattern on the upper left matched the color of the rooster's legs and I thought the pattern would be a clever touch. But once I realized I had enough of my initial choice, the brightest option, I went with it.

I cut my strips for the binding 1½" wide for the black and 1¾" wide for the accent yellow. I calculated I needed 7 WOFs. Then I thought, with four placemats, why not just cut eight strips, two per mat? I did not have do deal with shuffling around one long length of binding, just four shorter lengths. I allowed myself the luxury of a bit of waste. Though knowing me, I will put it in my leftover binding box and not toss it.

The yellow and black were joined lengthwise

and pressed over in half so that an  ⅛" of yellow peeks out.

Here the binding is attached to the wrong side of the mat, about to be folded over to the right side and stitched in place. The trickiest part is joining the tail end of the binding to the beginning end, but that is no different than any other type of binding. By the fourth placemat I had it down.

Here is a closeup of along the edge after the binding is pulled to the front and stitched in the ditch at the seam line between the contrasting yellow and the black. I used my stitch in the ditch foot here as well and it was helpful.

The mitering on the corners went well, too.

Here are all four placemats completed, followed by closeups of each one. I hope Anna likes them.

Linking up now with this week's Freshly Pieced's WIPs.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Barstools vs. Blankies

I just got back from visiting my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in Southern California. In my previous post I had made the pattern for the covers on the barstools in their kitchen area and had just begun to figure out a layout diagram for cutting out the pieces. I cut slightly oversized sized rectangles for each pattern piece, packed them in my suitcase, and took them with me to SoCal, planning to trim to the exact shape during my stay. Although I had managed to finagle a cutting diagram that allowed me to get all five covers out of the yardage I had, I had no contingency for goof ups. On my next to last slice with the rotary cutter, I messed up and cut the backs 20" wide (their required length dimension) instead of the needed 23" width for wrap around. Dang! I was short the fabric for two more backs, and I would not have been, had I not made that error – which I knew the moment I slid that blade across the fabric. We flew down on Wednesday and I would have Thursday and Friday, while all were at work or daycare, to mock up at least one trial cover and try it on a barstool for fit. I would face the fabric shortage recovery plan later.

I trimmed the gusset sections for one cover.

I set up an efficient little pressing station for myself at the top of the stairs in the counter space over the hallway linen cabinet. I was going to try out my Rowenta traveling item for the first time.

I encroached upon my son's office desk area setting up my featherweight Fiona that I'd brought along.

I even had the family dog Snoopy helping me out.

Then – either I'd slept funny my first night there or I'd tweaked something maneuvering suitcases – nerve pain, or a muscle spasm, or an un-named and unwanted ailment of some sort in my neck and shoulder precluded sewing my first two days there. Aah, "the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry"... Maybe things happen for a reason, though. I was able to reapportion the time to check out some JoAnns fabric stores in SoCal for the discontinued barstool fabric. There was none to be had in northern California. Success! A store in Huntington Beach, a 30 minute drive from my son's, had some! Yay! My husband and I drove there and my husband insisted I buy more than I needed – and with a large margin!

I was feeling better by the weekend but my window for sewing had closed, and by then, my attentions were elsewhere, namely my granddaughter. Not only did I get to play with and cuddle with her, but I also got to bask in past creations, a circular blanket I'd knit for my grown son two Christmases ago. The full saga of my son's original lost blanket from his childhood is in my post for December 26, 2013, complete with an odyssey-like poem. Suffice it to say I knitted a replica for his then-yet-to-be daughter and it was heartwarming to see her hauling the newly knit version around, down the hallway and up the hallway...

... on the stair steps, and in her mama's arms.

Here is her daddy as a baby asleep under the original.

Now would you really choose barstools over blankies?  Hmm... I do not have to think too hard about that one!

Based on my lack of headway on barstool covers, they still count as a work in progress for this week. Now I am linking up to other's WIPs at this week's Freshly Pieced.