Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wonky is as wonky does

I had an interesting phone conversation this morning with my mother-in-law, who lives in Bendigo. I told her it was cold here in Canberra, and I was going to spend most of the day making a quilt from a pattern and some fabric I'd bought in March. And that I had a lot of kits and patterns-with-fabric that were wallowing in my sewing room and I really wanted to sew them. My mother-in-law is 83 years old and also a quilter. She said she understood what I meant, and that she wouldn't have time to make everything she had kits and fabrics for, and she worried what would become of her own sizable stash once she was gone.

Wow. It was a maudlin conversation, but one that rings true for any of us with a sizable yarn or fabric stash. What happens with our stuff when we are no longer here to enjoy it?

So I went back to my pattern-and-fabric and suddenly hit a wall of frustration. I'd ironed my fabric, and on reading the patterm, templates were mentioned. I don't do templates. Can't stand the things. If I'd read the back of the pattern when I'd first seen it, I would never have bought it.

And then I remembered I had a ruler for patterns such as these. And I decided not to bother using the pattern I'd bought. I was going to go it alone.

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

I'd bought this ruler at a quilt show after attending a demonstration on how to use jelly rolls. And I've never used it before today (and yet I have quite the collection of jelly rolls!)

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

And here's the problem I now had.My fabric, bought on recommendation from the quilt shop I bought the now-rejected pattern from, was a Kaffe Fassett stripe, and it's not at all straight. The stripes are almost freehand, so trying to get a neat intersection between the four pieces was providing impossible. However, I was getting some pretty cool, if not wonky, results.

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

I know there will be people reading this post who will gasp in shock and horror at my non-perfect blocks. But I like them. I'm embracing the wonkiness of them. But I can guarantee that each one will measure 7.25 ".

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

And here's where the design wall comes in. I've mentioned my design wall before, and some of you asked for more information about it. Design walls are all different, depending on personal preference, but mine is a length of flannel fabric, about $11 a metre from Lincraft. I have previously used pellon batting as well. When you hang the flannel or batting up against the wall an amazing things happens when you put a quilt block on it. It sticks. No pins or glue required. It's a quilting miracle. My wall is curently just pinned on the spare room wall with thumb tacks, but eventually I will be making a permanent wall with foam core board and screwing it to my sewing room wall.

Using the design wall means you can see things at eye level. And you can start playing. When I put my 7 completed blocks up, I realised that while they were wonky, they were also a little conformist. So I put some pieces on the wall and mixed them up to see what I had.

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

One block is made of four different cuts, while the other is made of just two. And mixed in with the other "all the same" wonky blocks?

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

It kind of gives the quilt a bit more zing.

In keeping with the wonky theme, I'd decided to make a log cabin border around each block, with each log being a different width. Once the blocks are rotated, they will look off-centre and give, hopefully, an optical illusion of different sized blocks (which they won't be at all). But I had to audition which colour fabric would look best as a background, for the logs.

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

Grey looks pretty good. A little bit industrial, and certainly doesn't look traditional, which is what I'm after.

Wonky squares quilt - the design process

And white looks pretty good too, although I'm not much of a white fabric fan (don't let the fact I have 3.5 metres of the stuff in my stash fool you).

I'm going to leave these on the wall for the day and keep walking past it. As I do so I'll be forming new ideas and rearranging blocks as I make more of them before I put them all together into a quilt. And that's what makes having a design wall such a valuable quilting tool.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Late afternoon, midwinter

I'm having a bit of a down-in-the-dumps kind of day. I came home early this afternoon to an empty house as the Mister has gone to see his family for a few days. I used to love having the house to myself, but these days not so much. I thought about doing some sewing to cheer myself up, but then I looked outside the window at the late afternoon sun and picked up my camera instead.

Oregano flower

I really, really love this photography thing. I still have a lot to learn about it, and I do love the low f-stop setting a little too much, but I'm enjoying learning more each time I take my camera out of it's bag.

Lilac shadows on red brick

Today I fiddled with the manual focus. I love the effects I can get when mixed with different light sources - in this case a late afternoon winter sun.

Sunset through walnut tree

Photographing random things in my backyard seems to cheer me up. When I think about it, it's the first thing I did each time I came home from hospital stays over the last few months, even though I could barely move. These two posts reflect that. And I seem to have a bit of a things for death and dessication. I promise I won't read too much into that, just so long as you don't.

Tonight I will sit on the couch and crochet my lovely purple shawl, and watch something happy on TV. I might have some ice cream. And tomorrow I will take some more photos.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Projects lost and forgotten

Recently I was searching for a partially made crocheted cardigan. I had a cold and I wasn't able to sleep, and I wanted to sit up in bed and crochet something.

I found my cardigan in the sewing room, in a bag along with a lost crochet book, lost yarn, lost stitch markers and a lost shawl.

Yes, a lost shawl.

Eva shawl

It's called the Eva shawl, which Thornberry and I challenged each other to make back in September. I remember finishing it on our around my birthday in late September and being a little, ah, perturbed by the 70s colours in the shawl. And then I obviously shoved it in a bag with the cardigan, yarn, stitch markers, and book, all of which became lost and forgotten. And all the shawl had needed was a good blocking.

Eva shawl

Eva shawl

Oddly, the colours don't upset me as much as they did last year, and I really like the shawl. The shape of it drapes nicely around my shoulders, making them very warm although the yarn, Kauni Wool 8/2 Effektgarn isn't the softest stuff ever made, and in fact I would go as far to say that this yarn is scratchy and distinctly un-snuggly. Bummer.

And the forgotten cardigan? Take a look.

Carefree cardigan in progress

I have months to go on this. So slow going. And so heavy that it's hard to hold up when crocheting it. I get tired, and tired of it, very quickly.

Holst Garn shawl - in progress

My latest project is being made using some yarn I bought from my friend Suzy Hausfrau. She has started an online yarn store here in Canberra, importing European yarns. I fell in love with some little skeins of Holst Garn, which is a 2 ply merino and silk lace yarn from Denmark. It's a little stiff when you work with it, but apparently softens up once washed.

Holst Garn shawl - in progress

It's another shawl (because I'm addicted to them). The pattern isn't apparent until you pin it and stretch it out. I'm probably a quarter of the way through this pattern, which is a Japanese by Pierrot yarns. And I love the colour, even though everyone who knows me knows that I don't like purple. If it's any consolation, I also bought some baby alpaca from Suzy in deep burgundy red.

Holst Garn shawl - in progress

But I am loving this shawl, and the yarn and the colour. Maybe I need more purple in my life anyway.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Toscane shawl

One of the things I love most about living in Canberra is winter, with the crisp air, smell of woodsmoke and gorgeous blue skies. However I am not loving winter so much this year. Winter has been kicking my butt. I am so cold all the time, probably from being so sick and having reduced circulation from not moving enough when I was recuperating from my surgery. For the first time in 20 years, I have actually looked forward to summer. And I hate summer.

Last year I made a beautiful charcoal coloured shawl using Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, and I've been wearing it constantly on these super cold days we've been having. It is so unbelievable warm and as I still had four skeins of the "Bristol Red" Silky Wool in the stash from when I purchased it last year, I thought it was time to make another big warm shawl to keep my shoulders and neck warm.

Toscane shawl

This is the Toscane shawl, another pattern by EclatDuSoleil. I really love Helene's patterns, obviously - this is my third of hers and I have plans to make more. She has a real knack for shawl pattern writing.

The pattern recommends using a floufy yarn like alpaca to bring out the bobbles in the stitch pattern, but I went in the opposite direction with a very matte, very textural yarn. I like how it turned out. This shawl will be worn frequently - like it's charcoal cousin, it's warm and cozy. Unlike it's cousin it's RED, my favourite colour.
Toscane shawl

I think I'm going to wear it tomorrow for an early, cold start to the Old Bus Depot Markets' Creative Fibre Day. I don't do the markets anymore, but Carrie does and she'll be selling my sack bags on her Fibrewebs stall. I've offered to help her out for a couple of hours (and not just because I might get first dibs on her lovely  hand dyed yarn). If you're in Canberra, come along - it's always a great day.

Seven bags made

More bags for the Bus Depot Market

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pretty triangles

Pretty Triangle Scarf

Last October I was at my usual Saturday morning knit and crochet session with the Queanbeyan girls when Carrie brought along some gorgeous hand dyed merino/cashmere/nylon sock yarn to show us. I was lucky enough to snaffle a skein which had red tones - burgundy, scarlett and a little sparkle of pale red.

The quandary then was how to use it. I was on my "10 shawls in 2010" mission back then, but as the skein was only 400 metres long I wasn't too sure I'd get much of a crocheted shawl out of it. I came across a pattern called "Pretty Triangle Scarf" by Kim Miller, and decided it was the perfect pattern for my gorgeous skein of red. It was a little shawl, worn like a kerchief. I knew I'd get a lot of wear out of it.

Pretty Triangle Scarf

The yarn is gorgeous - soft, warm and springy. It was lovely to crochet and from memory the pattern only took me a couple of weeks to complete. All I had to do was block it and make the tassles.

Pretty Triangle Scarf - blocking

And of course that took me until this week to do. I was home sick with a bad cold, and some lovely warm sun was streaming through the spare bedroom windows. I took a chance, used my new blocking wires, and it was dry by the evening.

Pretty Triangle Scarf

I was doubtful that the tassles would look any good. But I like them now they're attached to the scarf. They work as a balancing weight against the rest of the scarf.

I'm on such a scarf and shawl bent at the moment. I have another red shawl currently being blocked on the spare bed which hopefully I'll be able to show you in the next couple of days. It's big and snuggly and I think I'm in love with it. I can't wait for it to come off the blocking wires (hopefully by tonight - my cold has me banished to the spare room, and that's the blocking bed!). Here's a sneak peak.

Toscane shawl - blocking

I'm supposed to be in the Blue Mountains at Wintersong with my friends this weekend, but my blasted cold has kept me away. I am consoling myself with lots of hot tea and lots of crocheting and sewing. It's not the same as singing, but it will have to do.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A day in the country

Chef's Garden at Grazing at Gundaroo

Our friend Patricia, who I made a cowl for a few weeks ago, came to Canberra to visit this weekend to double check I survived the ordeal of the last few months (she was pleasantly surprised). It was a good excuse to do some touring around the region, even though Pat and I both moved here from North Queensland in 1991 and she only moved away 5 years ago.

But still - any excuse.

Kangaroo - Grazing at Gundaroo

We headed to a little town called Gundaroo for lunch at Grazing. It's our favourite place for lunch - the food is beautiful and the atmosphere relaxed. We always go to visit the chef's garden out the back before hopping back in the car to drive home again.

Did I mention the food? This is the parfait, and it tastes just like a Dutch delicatessan smells, all almondy and cinnamony and spicy.

Parfait - Grazing at Gundaroo

When Patricia arrived earlier in the day, I presented her with another scarf I had made her. The pattern is Solveig by EclatDuSoleil (Ravelled here). It's a crocheted baktus shawlette, worked from one side to the other and then a ruffled edge is crocheted on. It's all done in one piece, and you know what that means? Only two ends to weave in. Bonus.

Solveig scarf

I was ambivalent about the ruffled edge when I started it, not being much of a ruffly person, but once it started to form I was hooked (ha ha).  The yarn is hand dyed Fibrewebs Merino Silk in a luscious eggplant colour. I bought a couple of skeins of it from Carrie before she sold it at our July market stall last year. So glad I did. I love this yarn. I could marry it except I doubt it would make me cups of tea after dinner like the current yarn husband does.

Solveig scarf

I love making things for people who I love who I know are going to appreciate it. I've been making Patricia scarves and neckwarmers for years and she still wears them all. My sister-in-law sent me a photo yesterday of my baby nephew in his pram covered in the rainbow ripple blanket I crocheted his older brother back in 2007. Being a quilter and a crocheter, I get the chance to keep people warm, and that's a really nice feeling.

Solveig scarf