Friday, August 30, 2013

Country time baby quilt.

This is the project that I've had planned, in the back of my mind, ever since I first found out my brother and sister-in-law were having a baby. It's the Country Time Quilt, from Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion book.
First of all, please excuse my wet hair and rubber boots. :) And the generally bad detail photos. I ran out of fabric for the binding and couldn't buy more until last Saturday, which was the day before the baby shower. So I didn't actually finish the quilt until the evening before the shower, and I didn't get photos until Sunday morning. The close up photos turned out so dark that I had to try to lighten them.

I really love how this turned out. :) Of course I'm pleased with the crib quilt, too, but I wanted my niece to have a quilt she could drag around and have picnics on and nap with anywhere. I originally planned on five different fabrics. I picked out four fabrics at Hobby Lobby: the darker pink (which has white polka dots), the lovely green with sweet white flowers, the gray polka dots, and the Mother Goose toile (which is ridiculously adorable!). And I already had some pink gingham I planned on mixing in. When I was randomly laying out the squares, I thought that there was a little too much of the dark gray, so I took out half of the six squares of that color and substituted with some green damask-type print I had left over from the lining of my purple coat.

There are six embroidered squares on the quilt. It's incredibly convenient that they're farm animals, and not only that, but they're animals that we actually have on our farm. With the exception of ducks and the cow, though we had milk cows several years ago. :) I really wanted to add in a goat but I couldn't find a cute goat image to embroider.

The book calls for the animals to be mostly outlined in chain stitch. I never, ever use chain stitch. I don't think I've used it since I practiced my very first stitches on a piece of scrap fabric several years ago. But being the slightly obsessive person I am, I wanted to follow the instructions as much as possible (plus Alicia Paulson is like an embroidery/sewing/knitting queen, and I trust her judgment on such things :). So I used a chain stitch for the most part. You can see how my stitching improved as I progressed and stopped trying to rush through it...these are in the order I stitched them, except for the rooster and sheep. The rooster was the first one I finished.


Here's the thing: I did more embroidering and hand stitching on this quilt than I've ever done on a single project in my whole crafting career. And maybe that's why feels so special to me. :) I pieced the squares by machine and attached the binding to the front likewise, but everything else was done by hand: the embroidered animals, the quilting, the label and attaching it, and sewing the binding to the back of the quilt. Of course, it is a pretty small quilt: about 37 x 37.

Yes, I said the quilting. I quilted something by hand! And it wasn't half bad! The only problem I had was keeping my stitches even. I don't know if I was using the best sized needle for this type of thing, and plus I was rushed because the baby shower was quickly approaching. The emphasis was more on finishing the quilt in time rather than making sure each stitch was perfect and even. :) I used DMC perle cotton in number 8...I bought one of those little balls of it and didn't even use it all.

I did learn that thimbles make me even more awkward and fumbling than I already am. I had to wear one part of the time because I got a very sore dent in one fingertip from the needle, but I struggle with a thimble.

Hand quilting is surprisingly quick when you're being sort of haphazard about it. :) I honestly think I could hand quilt a queen-sized one for my bed just as fast as I could using the walking foot on my machine. Or even quicker...I could tie it. :) That idea is becoming more and more appealing to me.

{The back of the quilt was a sweet tiny floral print that I wanted to use on the front, but it didn't match the pinks. So I compromised and used it as the back.}

The instructions didn't call for a binding, but I love quilt bindings so much that I had to add one. After I made sure it wouldn't interfere with the embroidered animals, that is.

For it to include so much hand sewing, this little quilt came together surprisingly quickly. I was averaging one animal a day, except for the cow and horse because they were larger, and I finished the ducks and pigs in one day. Cutting out the squares and piecing them together took no time at all. The hand quilting took me about seven hours...I started around noon one day and finished that evening. The label and binding took another few evenings.

I really love this Mother Goose fabric. So many nursery rhyme characters make appearances: the three blind mice, Jack and Jill, Little Miss Muffet, blackbirds in a pie, Humpty Dumpty, Little Bo Peep, etc. Mother Goose herself is even featured. :)

It feels nice to have two big baby gifts finished. :) And while I will never be one of those constant quilters who sews hundreds of tiny pieces together perfectly in intricate patterns, I think I'm getting a bit more confident about quilting with each one I make.

Just in case you're wondering, the memories wrapped up in the making of this quilt are primarily the awesome show Monk (which I will be writing about soon) and this lovely album called Gold and Rust.

Until next time,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Natural dyeing success! And a failure.

One of my goals this year was to experiment with natural dyeing. I started off in the spring very excited about growing herbs and plants to dye yarn with, but my excitement sort of died when the majority of my plants did. :) So I decided to start looking for native plants that are growing wild on our farm.
Here is the progress of my first real handspun yarn, which also happened to be my first natural dyeing success. :)

The other week, me and my dad went scoping out dyeing plants on the farm. We have lots of staghorn sumac growing along the edges of fields close to our house, and I was saving my first handspun (all done on a spindle over the course of 4 months) for that. The sumac berries near our house were still green, so I expected it to be another month or so before I could use them.

While we were walking at the farm, we came across one sumac bush where the berries had already turned. Since my book said that this is a one-day dyeing session (rather than letting the dye bath sit overnight like you typically would), and I just happened to have a free day, we decided to gather some of the sumac. Dad had a grape lug in the back of the truck, so we picked all the ripe berries from that bush.

Then we rode over to a neighboring farm and found several bushes that were even more bright red and ripe than the one on our farm, so we picked some more.

We ended up with approx. 10 pounds of berries. The recipe called for a 10:1 ratio of berries to yarn. I was dyeing 0.6 pounds of yarn, so I used 6 lbs of the berries.

I couldn't believe how all of the color was drained out of the berries after they were boiled for a couple of hours!

I boiled them for about two hours, then strained the berries and stems out. The water was a pretty brown at the stage. Then I added the yarn and let it simmer for another couple of hours.

This is what the yarn looked like after that. You can stop at this point, with your yarn being a perfectly nice tan color. But I had one more step.

I took the iron mordant bath that I had saved and added a bit more iron to bring it up to the right percentage. Then I heated it up and added the yarn into the iron afterbath.

It's the strangest thing. The water in the sumac dye bath was brown. The iron afterbath water was brown (about the exact same shade, actually). But when you add the dyed yarn into the afterbath, the water turns black.

And after soaking for about 20-30 minutes, the yarn has turned from tan to charcoal gray! I hung the skeins out to dry in the shade. For several days afterward, they still smelled a bit too much like iron, but now, a couple of weeks later, the smell is gone.

And here's the finished yarn...

Sorry for the darkness of the photos...the only way I could get the true color to show was to close the curtains. It's a really lovely dark gray, with the tiniest hint of brown still showing in a subtle way. One skein is slightly darker than the others because I had to use two pots to fit all of the berries, and with three skeins, I had to try to divide the dye bath into 2/3 and then 1/3. But apparently the water that the one skein was in was a bit more concentrated than the other.
I'm so happy with how it turned out! I have about 280 yards of this yarn, so I'm looking forward to knitting it into something special this fall...maybe a scarf or cowl or something.

Before I had success dyeing with sumac, I had a disappointing natural dyeing failure. I should have expected it, because I didn't have the proper amount of plant material.

I planted fennel this spring, and while it did better than some of my other plants, it still didn't yield a lot. (Apparently it's considered an invasive species in my state, which I didn't know until after I planted it. But if this year was any indication, I'm not worried about it taking over.) Several weeks ago, I picked every bit of fennel that was left and tried to dye some yarn with it.

This handspun yarn was white originally but when I mordanted it in iron, it turned to this light tan color. So this was after mordanting, but before dyeing:

Cooking the fennel...

And afterwards. No perceptible difference (it might look a bit darker, but that's because the lighting was better). This was supposed to be dark green. But I only had about 1/3 of the fennel I was supposed to have for this amount of yarn, so I guess that's why it didn't work. I'll have to try to dye it again with something else!

Until next time,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Age of Immature Mistakes {Music Monday 9}

Jars of Clay is one of those groups that I've been listening to for nearly ten years now (and that realization makes me feel old). What's even cooler is that they've been making music for nearly twenty years now and they're still going strong. :)

When I was twelve or thirteen, and for several years after that, I listened to their album Who We Are Instead all the time. I still think that album is incredible. I later fell in love with Good Monsters and The Long Fall Back to Earth and regularly listen to songs from those two. Even during certain teen years when I listened almost exclusively to Christian rock (Skillet, etc.), I still listened to Jars of Clay.

And this week the group came back on my radar when I downloaded their Eastside Manor Sessions sampler from Noisetrade because, you guys, it is awesome! Their new album Inland releases tomorrow, but I'm so attached to these acoustic versions that I might have a hard time adjusting to the real songs. :) This is probably my favorite from the EP (which you can download for free here)...Or is it Loneliness and Alcohol? Or Fall Asleep? I can't choose.

Also, I have to mention that I had a Jars of Clay revelation this past week. Here's the thing: I've never seen the group in concert. I've also, apparently, never watched any live videos of them online. Because all this time, all those years of listening to the group, I always thought that a certain guy was the leader singer and main guy in the group. I don't know why I assumed that- I guess he always seemed to be in the center of group promo photos and such. So when I started watching the below video, I was shocked. The voice that I've been hearing all these years was coming from that guy, and not the piano player (that's who I thought was the lead singer)? What?? Anyway, it took me a while to get over that shock. :) Then I just felt a bit dumb and embarrassed that I didn't know this before.

Anyway, this is the video of the EP that I mentioned above. It's really fun and includes the newer songs. Even if you're not that into the music, watch it just for the moustache. You'll know what I mean. {Speaking of moustaches, have you guys seen the season 3 Sherlock teaser? John Watson, what on earth is that growing on your face?}

 Until next time,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Project 360: Week 34

{231} Bits of moss and acorns.

{232} I really do love hand stitching on quilt bindings. Don't ask me why.

{233} Strange clouds.

{234} Uneven stitches. :)

{235} Discovering new songs from an old favorite.

{236} Walking back from doing chores.

{237} My brother and sister-in-law at their baby shower today.

Until next time,

Friday, August 23, 2013

The first baby quilt.

As soon as I found out I was going to be an aunt, I was full of ideas about what to make for my niece or nephew (as you know, we've since found out it's a girl :). I knew from the start that I was going to make a quilt. I even knew which quilt, because it was in a craft book I own and I'd been wanting to make ever since I saw it.
But then my brother and sister-in-law were given a crib set, and it included everything except a quilt or blanket. So I found myself volunteering to make one to match. :) Maybe two quilts is a bit overboard, but of course a baby quilt is a lot smaller and easier than a queen-sized one like my first one.
My sister-in-law, Mom, and me went to Joann's and picked out the fabrics. At first I was planning to just mix up the squares randomly, but when I started laying them out I didn't really like how it looked. So I started playing around with some more designs, taking pictures of them to show Rachel so she could pick which one she liked the best.
And here's the finished quilt!

This is the design we all liked the best: diagonal lines of color. I knew how many squares wide and long it needed to be for the size I wanted, so I started with the line of green squares in the upper right corner. Then I just started laying out colors that I thought looked nice next to each other, and then repeated the fabrics when I got to a certain point. I can't really explain it well, but there is some method to the madness. :) After I got the look I wanted, I took photos and then put the squares in stacks, marking each row so I would sew them in the right order.

The quilt is close to standard size...I can't find my notes right now, but I think it's somewhere around 45x60, though I might be a little off. I used tan colored cotton for the back and Warm & Natural cotton batting inside. This one is quilted just like my first quilt: with my walking foot I sewed straight lines 1/4" away from each seam.

I have to admit that I really hate quilting with a walking foot. I had a lot of trouble with that last time, and ended up with a broken foot that had to be exchanged. This time things went well until the last 1/4 bit of quilting or that point, my sewing machine was making lots of strange, squeaky noises and sometimes the foot got hung up like it did last time. (I bought a walking foot on Ebay that is supposedly for Brother machines, but for all I know it might not be genuine. That might be what's causing all of my problems, but I can't bring myself to spend $90 on a walking foot at my local store.) I never have any other problems with my machine- it's only when I use a walking foot. Plus, you have to sew on the slowest speed, which means it takes hours and hours of incredibly boring sewing to quilt anything. Because I find it so slow and stressful, I just don't think it's worth it. I love everything else about making quilts, so I just have to explore other quilting options, like free motion quilting or tying or hand-quilting (which I did on the other baby quilt...more on that soon!).

Anyway, other than that, this quilt came along really quickly and simply. :)

I embroidered a label on a triangle of leftover fabric from the front. Then I hand stitched one edge to the back of the quilt (in the lower right corner) and caught the other two edges in when I sewed on the binding. I found this idea for attaching a quilt label online, and I quite like it.

And Stella...yes, that's the name they've decided on. :) I think it's adorable. They aren't positive about a middle name yet, though they're leaning towards Grace. And though I think I want to be called Auntie, I put Aunt Kristin on the label because she will have four other aunts on her mom's side and I wanted her to know which one made this for her. :)

I tend to associate projects with what I was listening to or watching at the time, especially quilts. This one reminds me of: the Civil Wars new CD and the Avett Brothers' The Gleam EP (listened to nearly constantly while working on the quilt) and The Andy Griffith Show (I watched quite a few episodes on the last day of quilting).

Even though yellow is my favorite color, I probably would have chosen green or another color for the binding. It was Rachel's idea to use yellow, and I really love how it turned out. It adds a nice touch of color around the edge. I machine stitched it to the front and then hand stitched it to the back. Though I'm not very good at hand sewing, there's something about stitching the binding that I really love.

I'll have another quilt to share soon...I need to go work on finishing it right now. :)

Until next time,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A truth {number 4}.

That David Tennant became the best Doctor ever when he quoted Lion King lyrics and single-handedly (quite literally, ha :) saved the world from aliens in a sword fight while still wearing pajamas.

I'm rewatching Doctor Who and I just started the second series. Need I say more? :) Don't get me wrong, I love Nine and Eleven, too, but Ten is my favorite. {And I do realize that he isn't everyone's favorite, though I don't quite understand why on earth not. :) }

Until next time,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fun and Fancy Free {1947}

{Animated Disney Film #9 of 52}

Okay, so it's been a while since I've done my Disney animated film marathon...I think the last review was nearly two months ago? Oops. In the list, I'm currently amongst movies that I don't own, so I've been having to get them through Netflix. And I went for a while there where other things got bumped up to the top of my queue (Season 2 of Call the Midwife, for example :). Then the next film on my list had a "very long wait," and it took about a month for them to send it out to me. But anyway, here it is: Fun and Fancy Free!

Fun and Fancy Free is another package film from the 40s. Yeah...if you can't tell, I'm not crazy about these package films. I understand that the studio was making WWII propaganda films for the US during that time and wasn't able to put the money or effort into full length films. And the package films helped give them the funds to make the awesome animated features that came about in the 50s. But cramming a bunch of random little sequences together into one big film is not the best idea.

Having said that, this particular movie was actually pretty good. I think that's because there are only two "mini-films" within it, unlike some of the others where there are six or seven. More time could be devoted to developing the two stories and their characters and plots. Actually, the plan was for each of these to be feature length films, but after America entered the war there just wasn't an opportunity for that.

Of course at the beginning there's a random sort of backstory where Disney tries vainly to tie the two stories together. The backstory involves Jiminy Cricket and the fish from Pinocchio, so of course it reminds me of that movie.

The first half of Fun and Fancy Free is the story of Bongo. Bongo is a circus bear who is beloved by his public and does all sorts of marvelous tricks, but he's treated rather badly when he's out of the limelight. One day Bongo gets sick of circus life and decides to escape and live in the wilderness, but he quickly discovers he has a lot to learn about being a real bear.

It's basically Dumbo meets Bambi. :) Dinah Shore narrates it the story, singing in some parts and just narrating in others. I think she has a lovely voice, so I really enjoyed that aspect. The story itself was kind It was okay, but just sort of silly and random. And of course there's a bear love story slipped in there, too.

After Bongo, Jiminy Cricket heads next door to a little girl's birthday party. And at the party is a ventriloquist and two of his creepy dummies. Apparently he was a well-known ventriloquist at the time, but I wouldn't know because I've always found them to be extremely creepy. He begins telling the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, only in this case it's Mickey and the Beanstalk.

I really liked this second half. Maybe it's because the story was based on an old fairy tale sort of thing, and I do love fairy tales. Mickey, Goofy, and Donald are peasants who live in a beautiful and prosperous valley, and the valley is so wonderful because of a magic harp who sings to the people there. Then one day the harp is stolen and the valley begins to deteriorate. Mickey ends up with some magic beans that grow a beanstalk into the sky, where the giant who stole the harp lives, and the trio sets off to retrieve the harp. (Speaking of Mickey, it's kind of interesting that Walt Disney himself was originally the voice of Mickey, though this film was the last time he provided the voice.)

The live action people (the little girl, the ventriloquist and his dummies) occasionally break into the story, and the dummies interject quite often. I actually thought that was pretty funny. And Donald's breakdown was kind of hilarious, though I don't know if it was meant to be or not. Here's the thing: there is a cow tied outside of the trio's cottage. Donald goes crazy from hunger and decides to kill the cow with an axe that is conveniently displayed on the wall. This is the first time ever that Donald Duck actually has some sense! Mickey and Goofy are all, "No, you can't kill the cow! She's our best friend!" And then Mickey goes and sells the cow to get money for food. Because apparently it's okay to sell your best friend but it's not okay to eat her?? Maybe I'm reading too much into this. :) I know Mickey, Goofy, and Donald are technically "animals," but they talk and are personified, and the cow is not. It's not's eating meat when you're starving to death. Anyway...:)

I did enjoy Fun and Fancy Free more than the other Disney package films of the 40s, but I'm ready to get back into single story films. As soon as possible. I think there's one more film of shorts to go, and then we'll be getting into the lovely Disney classics of the 50s and 60s. :)

Until next time,