This needs work

My sewing set up since we moved is not ideal.  I’ve gone from having a dedicated room – small but with lots of shelves and several table spaces – to a corner of the family room.

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I swing the gate-leg table leaf up when I want to cut or iron, sliding the boards back against the wall by the desk when I’m done.  It is a tight space, and looks messy when even a few supplies are out.

The storage space is also problematic.

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I’ve got a hall closet nearby, with more stuffed in the coat closet, a couple of shelves in the office, and more still packed up in the garage.  There is no hope of a full quilt sized design wall that I’ve been able to figure out yet.

It will improve.  A few more shelves can go in the main closet, and I can definitely pare down as well.  Some shelves above the sewing area will help as well.

But nothing is going to turn it back into a separate sewing room, until a kid goes off to college.  And that is a good seven years away.

Still, I can sew, even if I can’t find all my notions yet.  (Maybe the good scissors are still in the garage boxes?) And I have a couple of finishes to share.

In July my cousin and I made small fused fabric quilt tops,  and this week I finished the two fish I made then.

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The top one is about half the size of the lower one.  I added top stitching details on the bodies and fins and tried to make creek bottom pebbles and water lines with varying degrees of success.  The small one is going to my nephew who is crazy for fishing, and my Mom got the other one because she’s my mom and has to appreciate my sewing projects.  Also, her condo walls are still quite bare a year after she moved in, so she can’t claim she has nowhere to put the things I give her.

The first one I did I didn’t think through well enough and I had a multitude of thread ends to bury.  The second one I wised up and did the stitching with just the top and the batting so I just had to pull the thread through to the back but didn’t have to knot them all and bury them between the layers.

You can see what I mean in the pics below.  In the first I had all those ends to knot.  In the lower one, I just left them loose and tangled and covered them up when I added the backing.

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The area works OK for these small projects but it is going to be interesting to see if I can wrestle with larger projects in that small area.  I may need to move to the dining room table for real quilting.

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Much better!

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The focus  in recent days has been continuing to unpack boxes – the china cabinet is now full – and bathroom improvements.

The bathroom in the master bedroom was clearly designed for someone who  didn’t share the room. While there was a door walling off the tub and toilet area, the sink area was open through an archway to the bedroom, as well as having an open space high in the wall, probably to let in some natural light.

The effect, however, was less light and airy, and more “Oh, let’s wake up the spouse trying to sleep in while the other one gets ready for work.”   I happen to be on summer vacation, so I don’t need to wake up very early most days. My husband on the other hand gets up around four in order to get to work on time.  The lights shining into the bedroom, not to mention the sound of the water running as he got ready . . . things had to change.

I think I’ve mentioned before that we are not handy people. I live in awe of my brother’s ability to remodel houses from the ground up. But we do want to improve our skills, and some things look doable even to us. So we decided that we could fill the upper wall hole ourselves, but that we probably needed a handyman to help install the door.

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Other than a fairly bad job taping the edges of the new wall board on one side so I have some extra sanding to do, it all went pretty well. We were even able to figure out how to solve the issue of two different thicknesses of wallboard being used in the original  construction.

I still need to do the sanding, and we need to put the trim on, but having the door on the other side of the sink is making all the difference! Eventually we are going to take away the wall that is now in the middle of our bathroom, but that will wait until we can get my brother into town to help.

Next up was completing the hall bathroom.  My younger son has claimed this one as his, so he got a lot of say in how it turned out. Originally this was a very metallic gold room. The wallpaper was really strange, torn into odd shapes and overlapped. When we stripped it all away, it was actually worse as we found dark turquoise paint and a black pink and turquoise border that screamed 1980s.

The left corner pic is from the house listing photos.  Not a hideous bathroom, but not the right style to make a 10-year-old boy happy.

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Who just papers over an electrical box?

Plus, this fixture had to go.

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Friends, who will probably no longer stop by to say hi, helped me strip off all the layers of wallpaper, and then my sister came and painted the room a nice blue that my son picked out. (Actually I had to talk him out of gray – not a good color choice in a windowless bathroom in the Pacific Northwest where we get enough gray six or seven months a year.)  He also picked out the more modern light fixture to go over the sink, and we put up the world map shower curtain he loves.  (We all now know the capital city of Mongolia.)

The last thing my son and I did was go towel hunting. This was more difficult than I had realized it would be. Forty-seven shades of blue, much pondering, and several stores later, we brought home a stack of bright white towels. Not sure white towels is smartest thing with the 10-year-old boy, but it stopped the apparently agonizing choice of which was the right blue.  Not great with decisions, that boy.

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Someday we want to change the vanity and the flooring, but for now I think it looks much better.

There was some sewing in between all the bathroom work.  I took down the practical but unattractive vertical blinds that covered most of one wall in the master bedroom and replaced them with purchased curtains. However, they were a little transparent, and that room gets some pretty intense sunshine in the afternoon. Since today it’s projected to be 103°,  more was needed. I got a three dollar cotton sheet at Goodwill and used it to line the curtains over the sliding glass door. Unfortunately Goodwill only had one white sheet, so the window curtains will wait until I get a chance to visit a different thrift store soon. But I can already feel the difference in keeping out the heat, and it looks much better than the vertical blinds did.

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We still don’t have any living room furniture, and there are more boxes waiting in the garage, but it is starting to feel like we are making real progress on the to-do list.

A small finish

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Despite the surprise extra days of leisure due to weather, there hasn’t been a lot of sewing lately – I’ve been on a knitting and spinning kick – but I do have one small sewing project I can check off the WIP list.

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These four placemats have joined their kin in a kitchen drawer, replacing some woven ones that were irretrievably stained.  A fun, quick project that used up a bunch of scrap strips and batting pieces.  I stitched each strip to the batting as I went along, so minimal topstitching was needed to keep the backing in place.  Of course, the tops lingered on the work table for a month before I actually got those backs sewn on . . .

Meanwhile, I’m still dunking fiber into dye pots.

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And I’m completely obsessed with how the colors of handspun are coming together in my cardigan knitting project.

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And then there is watching the snow fall – 8″ since it started last night.  A tremendous amount for where we live in Oregon!

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End of the Year: WIP update and 2017 goals

To get ready for the new year of crafting, I’ve revisited my previous WIP list and removed all the finished projects and set some goals for 2017.  This list will probably get revised again – one of my goals is to reorganize the craft room before vacation ends in a few days, and more forgotten projects are bound to turn up.

WIP for 2017:

Knitting

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  • Red sweater – my oldest WIP, knit years ago, it just needs a crocheted edging and buttons, but will it even fit now?
  • Blue cable sweater – just needs zipper sewn in
  • Volt wrap – complete i-cord edging

New Goal:  Knit a complete cardigan in 2017

Weaving

  • Rug – partially warped on floor loom – this one has been sitting there so long it is getting dusty

Spinning

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26 lbs. of fiber in the stash to be spun!   In progress:

  • Gray merino/alpaca/angora – 1/3 of ~7 oz. spun

New Goals: spin 8 oz. a month, 6 lbs. total through 2017; reduce stash below 20 lbs.

Crochet

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  • J’s red monster – needs a face

New Goal: crochet two cotton bath mats

Needle punch

  • Sheep in a field – needs the field

Sewing

  • Knit shirt conversion to tunic
  • Mom’s backpack purse – the pieces are cut out
  • Floor pillows/poofs – I’ve started combining the upholstery samples into fabric
  • Embroidered circles that need to be sewn into a pillow cover
  • Paper pieced snowflake that needs to be finished to become a pillow
  • Placemats – need backings to be finished

No new sewing goals, just need to finish some of these!

Embroidery

  • Wild flowers – figure out what the blue flowers should look like, add others

Mini quilts

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  • Mountains and flowers – needs some top stitching and a back
  • City and trees – needs more embellishment

New Goal: Make the Oregon wall hanging I’ve been mulling for a while

Quilts

  • Scrap in a box – top finished and pinned, needs quilting and binding
  • Red and white Xs – top finished and sandwich pinned, needs quilting and binding
  • Strings table runner – a couple more blocks needed
  • Oceans QAL – five blocks to complete before assembling top
    • needs octopus, orcas, lighthouse, shark. and seagulls
  • Scrap blobs – blob blocks need background
  • Jelly roll baby quilt – top finished, back purchased, needs pinning, quilting and binding

New Goal: Make a king sized quilt for our summer bed blanket

It is a little overwhelming each time I look at this list, but it really is shorter than it was the first time I made it, and I keep reminding myself that I enjoy all these crafts and it is as much about the process as the products!

Down to the wire

We leave tomorrow for my cousin’s where we’ll spend Christmas and start Hanukkah, so today I absolutely had to get the last of the presents sewn.

My cousin’s husband is getting this blanket, pretty much exactly the same as the tutorial version, except I changed the binding to chocolate brown.

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I forgot to take a picture of the finished blanket before my son whipped it out of my hands and wrapped it up.  In fact, I made it in such a rush, the two pictures above are the only two I remembered to take of it in progress.  You’ll just have to imagine the knot tying and the ironing. I’ll have to add the final shot after he unwraps it. But it really does look just like the one in the link above, except the binding color.

Well, and the fact that I did a fairly bad job of sewing on the binding.  I’m not used to working with either faux fur or suede-like fabric and I struggled a lot with sewing all those thick layers evenly.  It looks fine on the suede side, but the plaid sherpa side has a very wavery edge.  In a perfect world, or one with a couple more weeks until Christmas, I’d rip it off and redo it, but he’s unlikely to be highly critical, and the time is gone.

I did really like the suede fabric, despite the difficulties in both sewing and ironing, and I can see making something with it again.  Probably not with the sherpa fabric though.  Maybe on the back of a crazy quilt?

My other finish today was a couple of sets of felted coasters to give as stocking stuffers.  These started as a scarf, abandoned unfinished years ago.  I started throwing it in with loads of laundry until it was thoroughly felted.

Then I cut it into squares and did a blanket stitch around the edges with yarn, and viola, a couple of presents where a guilt inducing WIP used to be.

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Now, if we can just fit all the presents and six people in our car, we’ll be all set . . .

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!

Dec. 7 – Updated to add that I forgot all about this Black Friday purchase until it came in the mail last night!  90″ x 20 yards of Pellon Nature’s Touch batting.  I haven’t used this kind before – I’ve been using Warm & Natural lately, but that roll was getting low, and this one was on a super sale.  It feels good to the touch.  I’ll keep you posted about what it is like to work with.

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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.