Change of Seasons

November 13, 2014 - 12:25 pm

So much to talk about I scarcely know where to begin.

Adventures in Home Ownership is approaching the wrap-up of the first big push. Since mid-March I’ve woken up every morning with a list of things I needed to accomplish for the house, and I’m starting to see the bottom of it creeping up. There are still a very large number of things I’d *like* to do, in an abstract “wouldn’t it be nice if…” sort of way, but the “must be completed for house to function” list is decidedly short. Just a few more small but fussy tasks in the downstairs bathroom, some work in the studio, and a couple contractor days. It’s good that the end is in sight because I’ve lost all enthusiasm for the work. 

We got a new kitten, Calcifer:

snoring kitten

He’s named after a character from Howl’s Moving Castle, which is one of our household’s favorite movies. The obligate cute kitten photos will commence:

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And also ob-video:

So, uhm, that’s been a distraction. We were hoping Mickey would like having a kitten friend. He was unconsolable after Pook died; I didn’t sleep for several weeks because he was so needy. Unfortunately, so far he’s terrified. He’s about 14 lbs. The kitten is not yet 2. Silliness.

I’ve been working on a quilt:

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It has taken over the living room:

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I’m not allowing myself to play with my newest toy until it’s put away, and I’m not willing to put it away until the top is pieced since arranging all the hexes the way I wanted was a bit of a nightmare. But I have a beautiful new custom made wheel from Tom Livernois waiting for me, tucked in between the cutting table and the ironing board where it’s safe:

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I’m planning to spin yarn for a Curl. As soon as the quilt top is together. Because we really do need the gaming table, game shelf, and couches to be accessible. And I need a studio to work in so I stop doing this whenever I embark on a big new project. 

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three more rows to go!


September 10, 2014 - 9:28 am

Yesterday I continued sewing up the hexagons from the one block wonder quilt, and have them all complete. I haven’t decided how I want to assemble the quilt, though.

There’s not a lot of contrast in the fabric, not are there any quiet sections to give the eye resting places, so I’m having a hard time getting the sense of motion I would like. It sort of looks like a big blob. I love each hex by itself, but when cozied up to its neighbors I can’t find an arrangement that is pleasing. I feel like I may need to add some solid colored hexes to stand off the swirls. It is certainly a fun and rewarding exercise to make these, though!

Today I did some free motion quilting. I was inspired by Jenny Lyon’s “Morning Breeze” quilt, so tried a similar experiment: 

Dandelion FMQ

I’m generally happy with the color work and unhappy with the background quilting. I was having an extremely hard time seeing my lines and ended up working myself into corners where I had to break thread or sew out of an area blindly. There’s also too much movement in the background to properly show the color work off. But these things are why I’m making a sampler.

As to the red work, other than thread breaking issues related to my treadle belt being overly loose (need to fix that) I’m quite happy. I didn’t think I would like the effect of the overlapping leaves and stems, but actually I don’t find it distracting at all. More experimentation warranted, for sure!

Fly-by picture post

- 9:24 am

I’m starting to emerge from Adventures in Home Ownership!! I have two more projects that are underway but not completed and then I’ll switch from full time home repair person with some fiber stuff on the side to full time fiber artist with a lot of home repair work in my spare time. There’s a bathroom to finish tiling, and studio lights to install. After that the list of things to do either fall into “maintenance” or “nice to have” categories.

In the meantime, to stay sane, one of my occasional projects has been the flannel wall/FMQ sampler. I’m quilting the whole thing on a 15-90 set into a treadle base from a 27 circa 1910.

I’ve worked two corners of the quilt, three courses of blocks in green and two in red. I’m going to work one more red course, then pick two more colors and fill in between them. Probably.

This is the green corner: 

green corner

This is the red corner:

red corner

The whole quilt from the green side: 

whole quilt

And detail pics:

various motifs

various motifs

Nina Paley style cloud practice

various motifs

various motifs


oops, toes!

Now I’m ready for the next course!

set up for next block!




The Swallow and the Rose

August 25, 2014 - 9:40 am

I’ve been interested in the One Block Wonder quilt pattern since I encountered it 6-8 months ago. Yesterday I decided I wanted to scratch the itch. We stopped at Pacific Fabrics on our way home from a weekend in Friday Harbor, and I bought two yards of this:

F851 1a

It’s in the “Light Fantastic” line by Fabric Freedom.

I spent a couple hours last night cutting out strips and then chopping those into triangles:

Swallow and Rose one block wonder quilt

and then a couple hours at the sewing machine this morning making those into hexagons:

That’s about half of the fabric, I think. I have no idea what I’m going to make with it, though the color would go well in my office. I want to practice free motion quilting over a pieced quilt, so that’s the excuse for buying it and sinking time into making it. Plus which I’m loving the rich colors and kaleidoscopic blocks. It’s pleasant and skill building.

I should be able to finish up the blocks in the morning, then on to piecing!

More Quilting Progress

January 13, 2014 - 2:46 pm

First, the finished ironing board cover photos! I have been quilting all day, so it’s pretty compressed. I’m pleased with how the wool batting rebounds as it dries— those photos were about an hour ago and it’s already mostly recovered— but the light is gone so I can’t get another picture today. Calling it done and moving on!





I completed connecting the blocks for the first quadrant of my new bed quilt last week:


 Today I finished a second quadrant, and sewed them together:


Er, I should say I sewed them together wrong. Twice. There is no photographic evidence of the second mistake. Third time’s a charm:


I was going to work all day on this and try to get the whole thing together, but given the two mistakes I think I’ll leave off for another day.


Over the weekend I picked up another vintage machine: a Singer 15-90. SN# AH 542337, commissioned on April Fools Day, 1948. 

I’ve named her after Marie Tharp, who began work on the project that changed the way we see the world in 1948. She researched and constructed the first map showing the topography of the sea floor as well as the continents, fueling interest in plate tectonics, which had been an extremely controversial theory prior to her work.

First thing I did was strip off the motor, oil her, then put her on the treadle base.


She makes fantastic stitches once I got her tension dialed in. Started from the right and worked towards the left, so you can see how the adjustments progressed:


Look how perfect the last row is:


Free motion quilting with this setup is going to be awesome!


Very happy.


Achievement Unlocked: Free Motion Quilting

January 10, 2014 - 7:55 am

So the ironing board cover is complete (photos before the elastic was inserted): 


Here’s another picture: 


For those who are watching the tiny space I live and work in, that’s the poodle pup’s crate behind the ironing board, with the fleece drying rack on top, and the kitchen counter behind that. My sewing table with the Rocketeer is to the right. I should do a layout diagram; not sure if that would be fun or depressing.

Not sure if I mentioned, but the cover was made from a $.99 flat king sized sheet I bought at Goodwill, and a crib sized wool quilt batt I bought to see how I liked the brand. Jury’s still out on the latter; it compressed a LOT when pressed, and doesn’t seem to be recovering. I wanted to use wool on the board, though, because wool can absorb 30-50% of its weight (depending on breed and processing) without feeling wet. That seems like a good property for an ironing board cover.

I’m also planning on making a laser cut 3mm plywood backing between the cover and the wire mesh surface of the “board” frame. Because I find it inexplicable why anyone would want a vented ironing board. The whole point is to build up steam and heat …. Right?

Anyhoo! Here are some quilt in process pics.

First (after the quilting) I tacked the edges of the top and backing together all the way around. I used a zig-zaggy stitch that goes three stitches left and then three stitches right, which is my favorite edging stitch for stability. I find it holds better than a simple zigzag, and doesn’t pucker the way zig zagged edges do, so it doesn’t cause a lump in the finished product. I went around once in the top side, and then a second time from the bottom, making sure I tacked the edges of both surfaces all the way around. This photo is from the end of the edging stitching, so you can see both passes, and how nice and flat the fabric is:


I got the brilliant idea of using the top edge of the sheet as the elastic channel. The channel is in three pieces, one for each long side and one for the back edge, with openings at the corners. This makes it much easier to thread the elastic.

The top edge wasn’t long enough so I had to try to duplicate it, and I had to open up and re-hem the edges of the tube, and blah blah blah. For the underside of an ironing board cover, which NO ONE will ever see. This probably added two hours to the project time. Would have been better to just cut 8” strips to length, hem the short edges, fold them in half, and been done with it. I got caught up in being clever. If you ever see the board in person please look at the underside and appreciate the pointless waste of time. 🙂

Next I cut the front lip for the cover, which is the only part that isn’t channeled for elastic. This pic shows me laying out the front edge of the cover and tracing on part of the sheet edge, which was not what I actually cut for this piece. I ended up using two thicknesses of sheet with one of the original hemmed edges creating the finish.


Then I tacked the front lip and the channels together, making a generous estimate of the right length for the channel. Too short would have been problematic, but 2” too long just means there was a little pleat at the back end of the board. 

I sewed the curved front lip first using a 1/2” seam allowance, then continued down one side to the corner, tested fit, and sewed from the front edge around the back to meet the first seam, placing the pleat sort of in the middle of the back. Here’s the stitched up backside:


detail pic, with evidence of blood sacrifice made to the project: 


detail pic of the front edge. Doesn’t that channel look FANTASTIC?: 


Another detail pic of the edge, clearly showing the sacrifice as well: 


I washed off the puppy’s muddy footprints, but I’m leaving the blood stain. 🙂

It’s finished and on the board, but still not dawn here yet so I don’t have enough light for a proper photo. Later, I promise.

I’m getting up to get ready for driving my sweetie to work so I can have the car to go visit Richard of TreadleOn. David is bringing up the base from the basement RIGHT NOW. gotta run!

Free Motion Quilting Set Me Free

January 8, 2014 - 8:30 pm

Actually I think it may have been the Daily Pages I’ve been doing since we got back from Texas at the suggestion of Donna Druchunas more than the Free Motion Quilting. But lookkit:


I’m not slavishly following the Artists Way. I may look at the occasional exercise if I get stuck in the future, but mostly I’m just getting back to a basic truth about myself. I’ve known since I was a teen: 15 – 20 minutes of scribbling in the morning pulls the bung from my creative spout.

Less than a week into this— in fact only 4 entries— and I have found a voice for telling a story I’ve wanted to tell for years, started free motion quilting, gotten back to blogging, and started belly dancing again. Oh, and cleaned the house and my desk. This is around caring for a sick dog and recovering the house from holiday and vacation madness. 


I know this about myself. I know I need to write inane drivel every morning. Life is better if I get that stuff out of my head and onto a page or committed to bits, but somehow it gets shunted to the side. Most of this should never be read by anyone but me, and possibly not even by me. It’s write once, read never data. Perhaps in 20 years it will be interesting to look back, but 90% of it is minutia and the rest is crap. 

I think I end up feeling like I should be doing something Productive and shouldn’t waste my time writing stuff that’s not readable or shareable. I call bullshit. I need this more than anything else I do for myself in a day. It’s probably more important to my well being than showering. Though I don’t intend to put that to the test. Ever. I can have both. 

So let me tell you about this here free motion quilting thing.

Firstly, thanks and kudos to Craftsy and Leah Day for a fantastic class. 

I’ve shown pictures of the quilt I’ve been working on with the Rocketeer. The one I drew in 1995, and have been   v e r y   s l o w l y   piecing ever since. The blocks are all pieced now. I completed the layout and I was 1/4 through sewing up the blocks when my iron exploded at the same time my ironing board cover ripped. (I can neither confirm nor deny the allegation that there was a chasing dog and a fleeing cat involved.) Which pretty much put an end to any sewing together of blocks, since I am a crazy believer in pressing. Here’s a crappy cell phone pic of the completed quarter quilt:


And here’s a pic of the layout in progress from a couple weeks ago. Stupidly I forgot to take a picture of the final layout before labeling the blocks:


The piece of paper is the pattern. Here’s more of a closeup:


The version with the pencil on it is the final layout, but the difference from the blue one is small. The Liberty of London Tana Lawn reproduction of the Strawberry Thief by William Morris was the inspiration for the color palette, and is used in a bunch of the blocks. If I could pick a historical figure to spend a year apprenticed to, Mr. Morris would be high on my wish list. But that’s a topic for another day. 

With the quilt top approaching completion and my desire to actually put the damned thing into use I realized I would have to figure out actual well, you know, quilting. Which I have never done on any scale larger than a practice block. The big blue section in the pic are designed for color-on-color highly textured quilting work, so I kind of really need to learn free motion quilting. Therefore the class.

I had plans of using the fabric wall project I have on hold as the quilting test project. I wanted practice managing a large piece and I don’t really care how that comes out looking so long as it’s together for March 22nd and the Seattle Mini-Maker Faire.

The ironing board disaster gave me another option for beginning to learn this stuff, since I need to make a new cover. I figured at worst case it could be a seekrit layer under a dressy cover, and at best it would be AWESOME. I think it’s leaning towards AWESOME, assuming the Isacord thread I am using can handle the heat of the pressing.

I was going to use cotton thread but, well, Ada the Rocketeer is not fond of free motion quilting and flatly refused to work with cotton thread. She snaps the Isacord if I try to “travel stitch” immediately on top of an existing line of stitching, which has caused me to embrace the idea of thread build-up and travel adjacent to stitching lines rather than on top. But I get ahead of myself.

Last night I cut two pieces of fabric and a piece of wool batting for the cover. The fabric is 1.5” larger around than the surface of the board. For reasons that defy my understanding at the moment I chose to make the batting the exact size of the table. I’m sure I’ll make it work somehow. Here’s a pic of me stretching out the backing and laying in the batting:


The white zigzag scrap thing? sacrificial bit of fabric from cutting waste knotted up to make a dog pull toy. The ziploc full of colorful things? That’s my answer to Leah Day’s PinMoor system. I am certain they are a wonderful tool, but they’re WAY too spend for someone who has never quilted. I read of a number of substitutes, but they all took work to make from various sorts of foam. Instead I’m using animal face foam craft beads from Amazon:


$8.95 vs $150. The beads are kind of gumming up the pins, probably because of the glue between the layers of foam. So this may be a sacrificial set of pins, and there may be a tiny bit of residue on the quilt, but I can live with that trade-off. Especially because of the monkeys smiling at me.


They are friends with Rafiki, who I’ve put to use helping me get thread from the Isacord cone to the machine:


The thread stand is a serious McGyver. There’s a boring metal one on the way from Amazon, but I wanted one NAO. So I put this together:


The colorful widget is a glass candleholder that has Sculpy surfaces on it. I’ve had it since my Santa Cruz hippie girl daze, and I adore it. It has a spool pin pulled from the Viking Designer I’s thread holder, shoved all the way through a spool cap which is under the cone, and smashed into a gob of that tacky putty for putting up posters that keeps it steady in the candle holder. The arm for the thread guide is a large knitting needle shoved through the base for my yarn swift with a binder clip on the top.

Please laugh. I am. 🙂 It was the best I could come up with this morning at 7am. And it’s working well enough!

I started working through the class last night, starting with “U” shapes and working towards stippling. That’s the bottom left corner in this picture:


What, doesn’t everyone have a poodle puppy helping them with every task?

It’s not apparent from the pictures, but there were dozens of thread breaks and bobbin snarls in that tiny area while I sorted out the machine. Ada the Rocketeer wants:

  • Straight stitch throat plate
  • Straight stitch foot (I’m using a modern clear 1/4” quilting one)
  • Stitch length lever in the middle of the “fine” area on the lever
  • Thread tension up a whole step from where I was getting good tension with seaming
  • Presser foot tension dialed down to zero
  • Darning plate in normal position, leaving the thread dogs engaged
  • 100/16 (“Jeans” or denim) needle

Oh, and NOT cotton thread, at least not the Mettler thread I had on hand. I may try Aurafil at some point, but I generally prefer poly anyway.

I tried three free motion feet before trying the metal straight foot that came with the machine, by the way. I am not thrilled with the poor visibility, but it’s working.

It’s still twitchy and I have to be in tune with the machine to catch bobbin thread snarls and snapping top thread plies if I go too fast, too slow, or run over existing stitches. I can’t find the teflon sheets I’d bought for approximating the Supreme Slider Leah Day uses, so I’m working without. I know from past experience I loathe wearing gloves to sew.

I have hopes that some more equipment tuning will make this even more delightful, but that’s hard to imagine. I am thrilled. I started out dutifully following the exercises, but at some point I cut free and just started playing. 




I started with the exercise shape, repeated it a couple times, and then riffed off it with my own take. Feathers should look like feathers. Preferably Ostrich. The paisley snake things needed curly flames sewn around them, I mean, duh. Can’t you tell?

I didn’t want to stop, but my hands were getting tired, and my patience was getting as frayed as the top thread. It was time to put it down for the night. 

I should be able to finish up the cover in the morning. My new Rowenta was delivered. I’ve used binder clips to attach the torn cover to the table well enough to press the seams for the new one. I am still hoping to get the rest of the top together this week. 

Wow, this free motion stuff is fun. I’m looking at the quilt top with glee. Can’t wait to start on it. 🙂


December 30, 2011 - 10:06 am

I am doing something uncharacteristic for me, and setting goals going into the new year.  I *think* the timing derives more from having a couple weeks of reflection time than from some sense of seasonal obligation.  I know myself well enough by now to be aware I will only make changes if they are internally motivated.  Extrinsic factors like the social pressure to make “New Year’s resolutions” or to lose weight for someone else or the like simply don’t work for me.  I also know I need to begin quietly, test how things feel, find my way into the new patterns before discussing them with the world.  It’s been a week now, more or less, and I’m ready to share.

I have begun to add two things to my routine:

1) Belly dance.  Because I need to remember to take joy from movement. 

I expect I will reap benefits in health and self concept, but the impetus is joy.  I want to move, I want to dance, and I have always absorbed the message from my parents and others that I’m too fat to dance without looking ridiculous.  Fuck’em all. 

2) I will do one thing I have been procrastinating each morning before noon.

Taking something off the “later” pile and doing it NOW is so good for me.  Not only do I accomplish the thing itself, I reduce the emotional pressure of all the things I feel I ought to do but haven’t, and I increase my confidence in my ability to do all the things, or at least more of the things. 

This past Saturday I organized my sewing station, which has never been properly set up since I moved in here but rather piled in a disorganized heap.  As part of cleaning up and organizing I decided to complete a bathrobe for D which was meant to be a present last winter- he’s scarcely been out of it while in the house since. The impetus of the clean-up effort got me to complete it rather than put it away unfinished. Riding the momentum of success, Sunday I picked up a quilting project that had been in my pile of unfinished things for a decade, sewed up all the pieces I had cut, and here is the outcome:

Quilt progress

And this is the schematic for what it will become:

Quilt schematic

The colors aren’t reproducing very well on my screen at least- each block has a saturated and a pastel half, as well as a cool and a warm half, with all 4 variants- cool/pastel, cool/saturated, warm/pastel, warm/saturated. This is a variant on a Log Cabin Barn Raising pattern, arranged to also evoke something like an oriental carpet.  It will be a bedspread.  The blue areas will be solid panels quilted color-on-color, so they will be about texture, not color. It’s going to be awesome, both in terms of the amount of work required and the eventual FO.

Monday I tackled some healthcare nonsense from the very large stack of procrastination represented by the pile on my desk, and then dug out another half completed sewing project long overdue to a good friend, which will be mailed out today.  I think they’ll be happy with the outcome.  🙂

Tuesday was more healthcare stuff, and I started working through another thing off the paperwork stack.  I also started investigating belly dance.  I found both local classes and online video classes.  This series is awesome, for anyone else interested in joining in on belly dance exploration with me.

Wednesday was, alas, more of the healthcare crap.  Good gracious I loathe the pharma-health-insurance conglomerate.  It is just WRONG that I’m one of the fortunate few with “good” health insurance, and yet I can’t get some of my doctor’s prescriptions covered.  The tests he required to determine what was wrong with me last month are also being contested as “not medically necessary.”  Afterwards I tried the belly dance videos for the first time, and more work on the quilt.

Thursday I completed some minutia at work I’ve been procrastinating for months, then practiced dance for an hour, followed by picking up the Blue Mud project again and knitting a couple inches on the sweater body.

This morning I gave the kitchen a deep down scrubbing, removing everything from the surfaces and cleaning, wiping cabinet faces, scouring the sink.  I am determined we will get back in the habit of cooking more meals than we eat out.  I was dancing around the kitchen while I cleaned, practicing the exercises I’ve been learning and shaking out the inevitable stiffness that comes along with a new routine.

I feel good.  I feel VERY good.  I have awakened from the vitamin D deficiency fog, and I’m in the process of clearing the backlog of cruft that’s accumulated while I was effectively absent.  I’m moving again, I’m creating again.  I am moving into the new year in a new frame of mind, both back to myself and more myself, or perhaps more aware of what it means to be myself than I have been in ages.  If ever.  It’s a beautiful place to be; life seems full of good possibility. I am looking forward, and moving forward, with confidence and joy.