Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Outdoor Crocheting

It was such a beautiful afternoon that I was able to sit outside to do a bit of crocheting.  I am still working on my felt blanket, among other things of course. 
 Last week I started a crocheted edging on some wool blankets by just crocheting directly into the wool.  Then, I did 2 rows of single crochet, which went pretty quickly,
 but now I'm doing a row of these clusters, which goes a lot more slowly, but I do like the look.  i'm thinking of adding another row or two of them?  Any opinions on that?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Outing

We went to Gardenscape this afternoon to soak in some pre-spring flower displays and garden atmosphere.  I drooled over some of the pergolas that the vendors used for their booths.  R drooled over the saunas that are amazingly easy to use compared to those in the past.  
Then we ended up at Calories for a cappucino and cake.  Amazing.
We got home and I tramped around the yard for a while, which altho it is brown and dusty, was 17 degrees C, after all, and so quite pleasant.  I marked off a spot by the house where it would be quite agreeable to have a conservatory, and sat there for a while in a chair. 

 These are some lovely stone eggs I got a year or two ago; I love polished stones, and polished stone eggs are even better. 
I started this scarf, and liked how it curled around on the needles to make different shapes. 
Sundays are a good day. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Store Samples

Finally, I put a binding on a quilt this morning.  Part of what i do is to make samples to put up at the store.  Sometimes it is to show a new quilt pattern-- usually it is to be the model for a kit using a group of fabrics that are new to us.  However, it is inevitable that some of the samples I sew never make it to the shop.  This is for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes, it just turns out not to be a pretty quilt.  Or,  something comes up that delays my sewing the quilt, and before I know it, the fabric has been selling, and there isn't enough left to make up the kits.  On occasion I'll take in just the quilt top before it's been quilted, although I really avoid this, as I like to have all the samples to be finished items.  As a result of all this, I often have a couple of  several things in my sewing room that need to be finished, but that won't end up at the shop. 
One such project is this shoo-fly quilt.  I picked up a package of fat quarters of this fabric by Benartex in Houston over 2 years ago, before the fabric was released.  Started the quilt, the fabrics got ordered, arrived some months later, sold most of them, the rest went into clearance, and still my quilt was unfinished.... until today that is.  It is in the washing machine at the moment, since i always wash them as soon as they're bound.  And it will be all spring-like just in time for easter!!

Also sewed up some more tea towels.  I'm not sure why, because I have so many, but you know how it is when you just Have To. 

Hope you're having a great weekend!!! m

Friday, March 26, 2010

See you in St. Louis, Louie

I had been mulling over the idea of going to a workshop in St. Louis for a few weeks now, and yesterday I decided for sure to go!  I do like visiting cities that I've never been to before, and St.Louis certainly fits the bill. The workshop has some crafty sessions, and also some lectures on "business of creativity" sort of things.  It is at the end of April, so I don't have too long to wait. I thought it would give me a few new things to think about in regard to the store, and how to keep things fresh and exciting for our customers!
I love the ability to do things online.  In 2 hours I had registered for the workshop, bought plane tickets, and reserved a hotel room.  So, I'll be sure to take my laptop with me when I go and do a blow-by-blow description of my time there, so that you can vicariously attend too!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wool Blanket

As I may have mentioned earlier, I was inspired by some tea towels to make a composite wool blanket from some felted wool blankets I have.
Yes, these were thrift store 100% wool blankets in pretty good condition that I washed in HOT water and put in the dryer, so they became super thick and cozy.  A bit small, but cozy.  The orange one I started cutting strips off of to use for braided rugs, but  I still had quite a chunk of it.  So....
I decided to make a new blanket, and so far, I have basted/zig-zagged two pieces together, and I'm crocheting an edging around the whole thing...
I did a test-drive on a smaller square,

and quite liked the effect, except for the larger blanket I switched to a thicker yarn to make it a bit chunkier, now I'm wondering if I should add some blue or just keep it all white,   guess I don't have to decide right away.

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turn that quilt on it's side

I sewed up the rest of my four-patches this morning into a quilt top.  Hurray!, -- this is what I did:  (you might have seen me do this to other quilt tops in the past)
This is the basic block, it is 7-1/2" finished:

There were enough 4-patches to make exactly! 54 blocks, so I was able to make a setting that is 6 blocks wide, and 9 blocks high:  (I sewed them into 6 groups of nine, then sewed those together)

 I wanted to have the strips of little squares running up and down vertically, rather than diagonally, so I had to turn the quilt on it's side. 
So, I cut a diagonal line from the bottom left hand corner, at a 45degree angle, have you ever done that?

then, move the bottom triangle to the top edge and sew it on,
then, turn that quilt so that the diagonal makes the sides,, ...

and then, cut another line horizontally across the quilt from your new side....

 and move that bottom triangle to the top,.. and then sew that seam,
 and then, stay-stitch all around the edges, because they're cut on the bias.. and voi-la, you now have a whole new look!!!!!
 easy peasy, time to go make an espresso.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Inspiring Tea Towels

I do love decorated tea towels.  They are so useful and pretty.  When I was in Edmonton a few weeks ago, I checked out the new Anthropologie store at the West Edmonton Mall and got this lovely appliqued cakestand:
And, last year I picked up this fun towel at MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, NY,
 These two came from a thrift shop in Olcott, NY,
can you see the tatted trim is different on each of them (this is where I`d usually put a question mark, but something is wrong with the keyboard, and it turns into a É)
 All in a jumble they have sort of a pink party feel to them.

But, the best are these:
photo of tea towels  by Charlotte Lyons.
 Aren't they great? You can visit her blog housewrenstudio.  She does a lot with felted sweaters.

The thing is, I was thinking of these tea towels, and loving them, and something occurred to me.  Why not try this sort of edge decoration thing on a larger scale, like a blanket, or a table-cloth.
My thrift-scout/personal shopper sister Gerry, found me these wonderful wool blankets.

  They are such happy colors, and I have already started using the light orange one for some rug braiding strips.  However, why not use one of the pink ones as a center and sew a strip of orange on the top and the bottom, and some other decorative strips and applique as well.......  stay posted, I am so excited.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How to Make a Braided Rug, Part Two

You need to decide whether you want to make your rug round or oval.

If you want to make it oval, it can be helpful to have an approximate size in mind. This is because you have to start with a length for the center around which your two ends are curved. So for example, you might have a particular spot where you want to put it, such as a hallway. An oval is actually a circle, cut in half, with a square or rectangle placed between the two halves of the circle:
You can see that in the pictures, the first rug would be shorter and wider -- the drawn line in the middle of the square is the length of the first part of your braid.

So that in the second photo, the line is longer, and the rug is longer and skinnier.
For example, if you'd like your rug to be about 36 inches wide and 70 inches long, this is what you'd do. 1. subtract the desired width from the desired length (70-36= 34) 2. the result is the length to start with.
Example 2: if you'd like your rug to be about 30 inches wide and 84 inches long, 84-30= 54 inches to start with.
Easy right? The hard part is deciding what size you'd like the rug to be, especially if you're like me and just keep on adding to a project until I get tired of it. However, just pick a length if you can't decide, and then later, you can find a spot to put the rug.

Now, gather some equipment!
1. some coils of folded wool (see part 1)
2. pantyhose
3. scissors,
4. some sturdy thread, such as perle cotton size 8
5. a needle large enough for your thread
6. a bodkin

Of this equipment, the bodkin will be most difficult to obtain. They come in different sizes and shapes. My favorite is the one in the center, with the large eye and the rounded tip. The gold one is actually a needle used for knitting, which I hope will work. You can probably find one in a knitting or fabric store, or a large department store. they might be called a ball-point bodkin.

Okay then, it's time to start! Oval Version!

1. Open up one of the folded coils, and place the end of another one inside it, about 10 or 12 inches from the end, to make a T and then stitch these pieces together -- you can see the seam is about an inch long.

2. Start to braid
you will notice that one side of the coil will show the open side of it, where the wool is folded in on itself. The other side of the coil will just be smooth. Try to keep each side of the braid consistent. Either braid so that all the smooth sides are facing up at you, or else braid so that all the folded in sides are facing you. Later, you will lace the rug together this way as well, so that the rug will have a "right" side and a "wrong side".

3. You will need to almost immediately add the third color to your braid. I usually put a pin through the braided part so that it doesn't come undone.

Open up the end of both coils that you plan to join. Place the ends at right angles, right sides together, and sew a diagonal seam,
Cut the extra triangles of fabric off, and then coax the folded wool back into its shape.

4. Now you can continue braiding for a while, until you get to your pre-determined measurement! (see above)

When you are braiding, the coils might want to get all tangled together. I try to keep two of them short, and just let the third one pool on the floor. What I mean by Keeping them short, is that I place a pin into the coil so it can't unravel, so, it starts about 15" long from the braided part to the pin in the coil, and as I braid, it gets shorter. When it is right up to where the braid is, I re-pin it further down. doesn't that make sense?!!
Nb. Keep the braiding fairly snug and tight. Not insanely tight, but pretty snug.

5. Turn the end. To make the braid curve at the end of your center line, you will have to do something. This is what you'll do:

Normally, when you are braiding, you have 3 strings, the left, the center and the right. This has nothing to do with the specific colors, it is just where the ends of the strings come off the finished braid.

So in this photo, the beige is the left, green is center and turquoise is right. To braid, you would put right over center, (Turquoise over green--- now turq is center and green is right) then put left over center (beige over turq, now turq is left, and beige is center) Then repeat, right over center, left over center, etc etc,
To make a turn, you will go Right over center TWICE in a row, so, I'd go Turquoise over green, then for the second Right over Center, it would be green over Turq.
Then, go left over Center.
Then, go right over Center Twice again
Then you can go left over center and resume the normal braiding

6. Braid the length of the center again until you have to turn the end again.
You might want to lace together the two lengths so that you are quite sure of the placement of the second turn.

7. to Lace together the braids, you will need to get the nylons or pantyhose you've collected. Cut off the toe end, and then cut rings off the end that are about 1/2 inch wide, or so.

(At this point, I am wondering why the heck I thought it would be a good idea to write these instructions, I hope you are doing okay!!!!!! If so, great, if you are having some trouble, just stick with it, it feels really awkward when you do this for the first time or two)

When you pull on these rings, they get long and skinny, like elastic bands. you can link some together, place one rig under the edge of another, fold it over and pull that loop through. Right.
Then, just thread one end into the bodkin.

Pull the bodkin through the end loop on the inside, and thread it through the end of the pantyhose loop and pull tight. then, you just lace it back and forth from one side loop to the next loop on the other side --- pull the pantyhose lace tight so that the braids are pulled closely together:

Then, when you get to the end of the center strip, you do the turn thing again, as in step 5.  (R over C, R over C, L over C, R over C, R over C, Left over C, resume regular braid).  If the end of the center braided strip is bulky, you might need to spread out the turns a bit, by inserting another regular braiding step between the two Right over centers. 

Also, as you lace the strips, at times you may need to pull the lace through two steps of the outside edge braid rather than just one.  This will ease in the fullness of the turn.  If you don't ease in the fullness enough, then the rug will not lay flat, but "cup" in the center. 

After you have made a few end turns, you may find that you can just do regular braiding and ease in the fullness of the turns as you go around the circular parts of the rug.  Or, every so often you might want the braid to curve a bit so you'll throw in a double R over C.  

I'm going to post this now, but as I get further in this rug I might take some more photos to add in here.  If  you are working along with me and find anything unclear or a problem, please leave a comment, or email me at so that I can make that more clear. 

It really is satisfying to make a rug, and this technique will result in a rug that should last for decades, so stick with it!! m

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Magic Four-Patch!

Well, yesterday was our big day, altho it was actually not as long as most of our big days are. But, we visited and sewed a bit, and had some very delicious food (thanks for bringing such great cheeses and bread and lemon loaf, and veggies/dip). Because it has felt so much like spring lately, I even made lemonade!

 Now, for the magic four patch, you start by making a checkerboard of squares, any number of squares you like.  If you start with 100 squares, you will end up with 100 four-patches. 
And re. size.  Whatever size of square you start with, you will end up with a finished four-patch that is 1 inch smaller. 
So, if you start with 64 5-inch squares, you'll get 64 4-inch finished four-patches.  Right? Right.
Here, I had 4-1/2" squares to start with, and so my finished four-patches measure 3-1/2", or each small square in the four patch is 1-3/4".
As I may have mentioned (more than once), just sew all your squares into one big piece. 
Then, you will cut exactly through each patch, both vertically,

 And then, with each strip, turn it sideways and cut through each square that way too...
 I mean, that is just so incredibly easy.
The side strips, you will sew together, and then cut apart...
 and the ends of each strip you'll just sew together too:

and then you'll have all these four patches to play with:

Although this is not the most imaginative use for these units, I like the size of them better than what I had before,
The other way of making four-patches - using strip sets in pairs cut cross-ways, is very fast too - But, it is nice to have another option of making them fast, especially if you don't have long pieces of fabric.  It is nice to use a charm pack for this, or you might have a bunch of odd-shaped scraps.
I hope you give this technique a try. 
I still have some four patches left, which I have another idea to use, which I hope to get to soon.

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