Black Friday came in the mail

I’ve never been a mall shopper on Black Friday – the thought of the lines and crowds horrifies me.  But I did take advantage of the shopping-from-the-couch opportunities to do some fiber related shopping.

This all came in the mail over the last couple days:

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The quilt kit is a Christmukkah present for someone else, but the rest is for me. Kaffe Fassett shot cottons!  And I already totally love using both the ruler gripper and the little Japanese thread snips.

Both of those got a test drive this weekend as I did a small sewing project:

Quilt as you go, two at a time placemats.  I’ve lots and lots of scrap strips, so the four I made yesterday are just the start, and making two at a time really sped things up.

I also guided a a bit of a family assembly line in the kitchen as the second project of the day:

Four pans of lasagne for the freezer.

We were all about the mass production yesterday!

Scrappy stars finished

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My children claim that staring too long at this quilt makes their eyes burn, but my boys are prone to hyperbole.

I like the overly bright and busy look of it, though I do agree that the eyes occasionally might need a break, so the back is calmer.

So many little 2 1/2″ squares went into this quilt!  When I look at them I see so many of my earlier quilts represented in the scraps.

I free-motion quilted loops all over the background, trying to get in close between each point of the stars but leaving them unquilted so they’d be more prominent.  Some of my loops are rather wobbly, but I just remind myself that perfection isn’t a requirement, improvement is.

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I figured with a quilt this bright there was no point being subtle with the quilting, so I used a rainbow thread for the top, though I stuck to cream for the backing. (The photo makes it look Christmasy, but what looks green was really blue.)

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I had some trouble with the stitches, with long skips that were driving me crazy and causing a lot of picking out.  I had to keep marking them with pins to come back to later. Eventually I realized it was a needle problem, not just my rusty free-motion skills. I changed the needle and it stopped happening.  You can see one of the long unsecured threads in the picture below.  I don’t understand why a dull needle leads to skips, but I’m glad that the fix is easy.

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There are several ways to machine bind a quilt.  My preferred method is to sew the binding to the back, iron it flat and then fold it over and iron it down again, securing it for sewing with wonder clips.  (I am so on the wonder clip bandwagon – so much less pain than when I used straight pins and stuck myself all the time!)

I like this way because I can do a better job of catching the binding if I can see the edge I’m sewing down rather than trying to catch it on the back while stitching in the ditch on the front.  It does show more on the front, and it leaves a sewn line a little out from the binding edge on the back, but I don’t mind either of those.  In the two pictures below you can see the binding going under the walking foot and what it looks like as it comes out the other side.

On the back it looks like this:

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This is a photo of the crinkly version out of the dryer – you can see the straight line of the stitching that results from top stitching the binding on the front.  I need to work on getting the stitching closer to the edge – I’ve been using the side of my presser foot as my sewing guide, but it makes the binding a little wider on the front than in the back.  Having the two more even would move the stitching closer to the edge of the binding on the back.  Really though, it blends to be pretty unnoticeable.

The finished twin sized quilt out of the dryer:

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The puffy spots on the back where the unquilted stars are stand out the most in the blue section. (The color in the photo above is more accurate.)

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I think I need to make another one, only with a low volume background and dark colors for the stars next time.  There are certainly a lot of scraps left in my bins.

This is the second quilt finished in the last couple weeks.  My goal is two more finished before the end of the year.  That would mean all my finished tops were completed quilts, making a big dent in the WIP pile.

Floral diamonds done

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A finished quilt to check off the to-do list!

It was actually done last week, but I was waiting to post in the hope of getting outside-in-the-sun pictures.  These early-dark and rainy days make photography even more challenging than it usually is for me.  I eventually gave up and photographed it indoors.

The top is made up of of diamonds cut from the scraps of a floral quilt I made my cousin a couple Christmases ago.  As is my habit lately, I pinned it in my sister’s classroom to take advantage of all the space and the indestructible tiled floors.

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It is my second diamond top, and I quilted it very similarly to the first, with verticle lines and shadow diamonds scattered in.

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I drew the lines with a vanishing pen – when I was done sewing I spritzed water to remove the blue lines, and any remnants were taken care of when I washed it.

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The binding was more scraps, machine sewn as usual for speed and durability.

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This is never going to be my favorite quilt – I like the overall design, but question some of my color combo choices, but I have a couple potential recipients in mind for the holidays who would really like it, and it is more important that the person who gets it loves it than I do.

My son tested it out, blanket-wise, and says it definitely works.

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Thanksgiving Eve

 

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My family tree is filled with Danes.  My anscestors spread from Denmark to the Dakotas and then to the Pacific Northwest. My mom was a Christensen, and married my dad, another (presumably unrelated) Christensen. A Norwegian or two found their way in, and we’ve since added branches for family members from Taiwan, Israel, Japan, and even Alabama, but we maintain a few Scandinavian traditions for the holidays.

When I was little, my Uncle Ray (one of the Norwegians who snuck in) would always make lefse, a Scandinavian potato bread, for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  As we got old enough, my cousins and my siblings and I got to help.

Uncle Ray had high standards.  Insufficiently round lefse meant wielding the scissors to trim them back into shape.  Thin meant really thin, not the lumpy, uneven surfaces mine tended to.  However, Uncle Ray also was a firm believer in a couple or three cocktails while cooking in the evening, so inevitably, some lowering of the standards crept in.  Those lefse didn’t make it to the feast, however.  The mistakes were eaten out of sight, to the joy of those of us who got to gorge ourselves on them.

I’m not sure what Uncle Ray would make of this:

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The ingredients in lefse are really simple.  Potatoes, butter, flour to hold it all together.  Some recipes call for cream, others leave it out.  We’ve done it both ways successfully.

Our recipe calls for drinking potato based alcohol while preparing the potatoes, but that is also not a strict requirement.

This year’s lefse makers were my mom, my sister, her daughter, my older son, and me.

The potato ricer seems to have vanished into thin air, so we used a grater to rice the potatoes.  Not ideal, but whatever gets the job done.

Every year there is a learning curve to rolling them out and getting them to the pan with the lefse stick.  But as you can see from these pictures, we do improve as we go.  And if some of them are more fjord-coastline than spherical in shape, well, we just eat the evidence with some melted butter.

Lefse is supposed to be made on a flat griddle that gets really hot – we set ours at 450 degrees.  But I only have one, so we added in large frying pans and gas burners turned up high.  It was a struggle to get the flimsy uncooked pieces into the pans with high edges, so a second griddle is on my shopping list.

I inherited my grandmother’s lefse griddle, but a few years back it was plugged in and immediately caught fire (that was the year  we added vodka to the routine – everything went wrong to the point of almost succumbing to purchased lefse, and a bit of drinking seemed to help as we lurched from crisis to crisis). So my lefse griddle is a replacement.  If anyone knows a way to clean that black off aluminum, I’m love to hear suggestions!

We eat the lefse a lot of ways – rolled around turkey, with warm butter, with cranberry sauce.  We like them with cinnamon sugar, which is apparently heresy – my sister was once threatened with lefse confiscation by a Norwegian for doing this, so Americanisms have definitely crept in.  Now that Uncle Ray is no longer with us, we’ve thankfully abandoned the gelatinous lutefisk he served with them.  (No one should make small children eat lye soaked boiled fish – it is just cruel, and a holiday feast mood killer.)

We could probably swap out most of the foods we eat for Thanksgiving for different ones without much protest from the crowd, but not the lefse.

Ours may not be pretty, but it is oh so tasty!

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A final note: my sister has declared blueberry-pomegranate tea with a splash of vodka to be the official Thanksgiving Eve beverage of 2016.

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(I feel compelled to say that really, we aren’t much for drinking usually.  Our bottle of cheap vodka is at least four years old and I had to search for it in the garage.)

To those of you who gather with friends and family for this American holiday, I wish you much laughter, fine food, and a complete absence of political arguments.

 

Saga of the Christmas wedding blanket

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The centerpiece of our recently completed finishing weekend was Seattle Leslie’s blanket.

Or rather, her sister-in-law’s partial blanket.  Intended as a wedding present for a son, it was handed to Leslie as a pile of red, green and cream rectangles after Leslie made the strategic error of saying she’d finish it up when her sister-in-law hit a time crunch.

So Seattle Leslie’s big goal for the weekend was to get all those squares sewn together.  And hey, Portland Leslie and Paige like (don’t hate) seaming.  So while I spun and embroidered, the three of them sewed many rectangles together.  Some of those rectangles were rather rough, and the sizes were more “identical” than identical, but they plowed through, and the blanket grew.

So did the doubts about the back and edges.  They just did not look good, and no one was happy about it as an intended-to-be-cherished wedding gift.

Which is when we came up with the idea to add a fabric backing, to treat it as a quilt and hide all those uneven edges and knots and yarn ends in the middle of a yarn and flannel sandwich.

Leslie and I hit the nearest fabric store Saturday evening, where I promptly freaked out at the thought of paying $15 a yard for flannel – it isn’t woven with real gold thread! it’s freaking flannel! – and dragged her to JoAnn’s where the magic of sales and phone coupons turned the $75 price for backing at the first store into $18.

And it was a lovely soft and cuddly flannel after its trip through the washer and dryer for pre-shrinking.

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We seamed to get a wide enough piece, then spread it out on the floor for pinning and folding.  We cut it about two inches wider all around, then folded in the fabric edge and folded that over the blanket edge.

I zig-zag stitched all around to anchor the binding, and we all took turns knotting yarn through the intersections of knit rectangles to finish it off.

Leslie was so happy to have it done and without having to crochet edges or worry about the back.  We were all pretty happy with the finished blanket, and I am pretty sure I’m going to make one of my own someday.

 

 

Finishing weekend 2

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I just spent wonderful weekend in Seattle with my fiber friends.  It was the second finishing weekend of the year, a time when we dig out WIPs that have been languishing and dig in to get them done, along with a lot of catching up and some fabulous food.

Finding knitting projects was a little difficult for me as the last finishing weekend took care of most of mine that needed just a bit of seaming or ends sewn in.  Plus I frogged so many of my knitting WIPs.  Quilting WIPs weren’t going to work as I didn’t want to haul my machine and all the necessary bulky quilting supplies.

But I did have my blue sweater that just needed one sleeve sewn on, and my Volt wrap.  And there were some embroidery projects to sort through for possible finishing contenders, and spinning fiber in progress.  So in the end I had plenty to do.  Enough that it took several trips to get all the bags and bundles out to the car.

It was such a great time!  So much laughing and helping and exchanging projects and sharing ideas and accomplishments.  Portland Leslie likes to seam, and Seattle Leslie and I needed a lot of that.  Paige loves to sew in ends (so weird!  so handy!) and I was useful with machine binding.

Have you heard of Slow TV?  I hadn’t – apparently on Netflix there are hours and hours of Norwegian television that takes a topic and sticks with it through every possible second.  There are eleven hour celebratory hours of a boat traveling a Norwegian canal.  Eight hours of knitting talk. An entire multi-hour train trip captured on film.  And our personal favorite for weekend viewing, five or six hours about wood chopping.

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Everything about wood chopping.  How to stack, how to chop – and all the possible variations of both.  Wood deliveries, wood tool, music with chopped wood, contents on wood stacking, how to cut a piece of wood so that it is a burner for tea and a stool.  The apparently bitter controversy over bark up or bark down in the wood pile.  It was both tedious and mesmerizing.  And all in Norwegian and subtitles!  We had it on for hours, and yes, I’m aware of how crazy that sounds.

Another highlight was the tour of Seattle Leslie’s fiber stash.  It is impressive!  Walls of IKEA bins full of spinning fiber, and more cases and boxes and bins of the yarn she has gathered since the days when she worked at a yarn store and was paid in yarn.  We treated it with the respect normally given to museum visits.

We ate, and drank gallons of tea, and laughed, and got so much done.

I finished my embroidered undersea scene that I started in a class I took a couple of years ago.

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I also got the last four oz. of my Ashland Bay merino spun and plied both bobbins into finished skeins just needing their bath.

My Volt wrap is just two rows away from needing the attached i-cord edging, and my blue sweater has its last sleeve attached. Just needs a zipper now.

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Everyone walked away with a lot they could cross off the WIP lists.  The photographic evidence of all we accomplished:

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That blanket at the bottom was a major team effort and is going to get a blog post all of its own very soon.

We are already planning the next get together.  There is talk of an AirBnB in Olympia in the new year.  Can’t wait!

Reaching the end of the red

It amazes me every time how a pile of fiber is so reduced in volume when spun.

There are four ounces of merino on this bobbin, and another four ounces of fiber beside it.

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I was able to start this colorful fiber (it is brighter in real life) because I have at long last finished spinning all the red alpaca/merino!  A lot of plying to be done, but so happy to be able to say I’ve completed all the singles.

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Now I have to decide if it is going to be a two or three ply.

But before that, some house work may be in order.  Unless I can figure out a way to spin dust bunnies.  In the interests of full disclosure, I found this one while pulling a bin out from under the bed to get more bobbins:

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I’m both amazed and appalled.  It is practically a new species.