Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Last night I finished the third bookmark I sold at the fair. The friend this is for had originally planned to buy this one at the fair:

but someone else bought it first, so I said I'd make her another. No problemo. This was on Thursday. By Saturday, she said she'd been thinking about it, and could I change out the middle pattern? Instead of a star, she wanted "something Celtic." OK, sure. What exactly do you mean by that? Like a Celtic cross? "Well, yes, like that, but not religious," she said.

A non-religious Celtic pattern that will fit into a 1.5" x 4" space. I googled "Celtic design" and a lot of knotwork-type patterns came up, so I thought that might work. The only problem is that hardanger stitching does not lend itself to curves, so it has to be an angular knot, and not too complicated because there's not a whole lot of space.

So here's what I came up with, my Norwegian-Celtic fusion.

If you click on the picture, you can see that the X shapes are actually knots, with the lines weaving through each other. I added the pulled thread stitches to add a little depth.

Hope she likes it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Still here, still chugging along.... I've been really busy with Emma and work, the past week, but I have still managed to do some fibery things. I started another doily (I know, I know. WHY do I need all these doilies?) during the fair week, and haven't done much on it since. I did get another two rounds done over the weekend.

It's this one, from Christine's wonderful site full of vintage patterns. I love this site. Most of the doilies I've made in recent years have come from it. I'm making this doily out of #30 Cebelia crochet cotton, with a #12 hook. That's pretty much my default thread.

On Friday, Emma and I made the trek all the way down to Puyallup, to enter two thing in the BIG Fair!

The sewing thread doily and a hardanger doily I made last summer. This was in the county fair last year, but the Puyallup Fair lets you enter things that were made within the past two years, not just one like the San Juan County Fair.

It was a fun day out, but a lot of driving. Puyallup is a bit farther away than I thought. Actually, it wouldn't have been at all bad, if the traffic had been reasonable. Getting there wasn't too awful, it only took a little over two hours, but going back north on I-5 was horrendous. The stretch through Everett (maybe 15 miles), which is always slow and congested for no apparent reason, took us an hour and a half! I was actually starting to wonder if we'd have time to stop at Jo-Ann's before we made a dash for the ferry.

We did have time, and good thing too. I had a 40% off coupon, and got the batting and backing fabric for my Ohio Star quilt. The fabric was on sale, and with the coupon, they practically had to pay me! I sewed together the backing, pin basted the layers together, and quilted three of the stars on Saturday. Yesterday, I finished quilting the rest of the stars. Now all that's left is to run some quilting lines in the sashing and borders, trim the edges even, and finish the edges.

I must say that I immediately understood the appeal of long-arm quilting machines after quilting just one of these stars. My sewing machine is a very bare-bones model, not made with quilters in mind. I can't even drop the feed dogs, so free-motion quilting is not an option. All my stitching is of the straight-ahead-only variety, though I can manually hold a button down and go in reverse. Every time I want to change direction, I have to stop, lift the presser foot, rotate the fabric (pulling the WHOLE QUILT through the (very small) arm of the machine), drop the presser foot, and continue stitching. What.A.Pain.

Actually, it wasn't so bad. By the time I'd done three or four stars, I'd gotten into a rhythm. I could do a row of three stars in an hour. I like the way it's looking. The quilting lines really make the pattern pop. Kind of like how the final backstitching makes a counted cross stitch piece come to life. I was going to hand quilt this, but I decided that since the piecing on the top is a little wonky and beginner-looking, I'd machine quilt this one, and hand-quilt the next one, paying much more attention to matching points perfectly while I'm piecing it.

I think Emma can't wait for it to be done. I spread it out on my bed yesterday to get a look at the quilting, and she immediately got under the edge, crawled up onto the bed under the quilt, and crawled under it all the way to my pillow. She poked her head out, said "Emma ny-ny, Mama," put her head down, and pulled the quilt up around her shoulders. It's so nice to have your work appreciated, even if it's not perfect.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

great googly moogly.......

Monday, August 22, 2005

What a week last week was! It’s always such a letdown when the fair is over. The Sheep-to-Shawl was a great success, though very low-key. We were the only team this year, so we just did it as a demonstration instead of a competition. I think the shawl came out beautiful, though the fact that it wasn’t a competition made everyone a little lackadaisical about it. There was much more chatting and taking breaks than in previous years and the yarn quality reflected that. As plyer, I got to see everything, and there were lots of overtwisted areas. However, with judicious removal of the corkscrewed areas as I plyed, the weft looked fine, and the overall effect was fairly consistent through the length of the shawl.

I really like the pattern of stripes that the weaver designed. It’s asymmetrical but looks balanced, even with the weft stripes only at one end. Kathy, the weaver, did a great job, despite problems with the borrowed loom losing warp tension at unexpected intervals. There was only one area where the pattern was messed up, and that was just two missed treadlings. She’ll be able to repair it fairly easily. We haven’t twisted the fringe yet, and it still needs to be wet finished, then it can go to the raffle winner.

And remember all the hardanger and crocheted pieces I put in the Sales Booth? Well, I sold all five of the hardanger sachets, two of the hardanger bookmarks, and got an order for a third bookmark (the woman who ordered it wanted one that had already sold, so I said I’d make another like it for her.) None of the crocheted sachets sold. Maybe I had the price set too high for those, since crochet is more commonly seen than hardanger.

I also was asked if I would sell the snowflake mobile! I think I will, after I fix it up a little. After all, I can always crochet more snowflakes. I have no idea what price to set, though. Any ideas?

One last picture and then I promise I’ll stop talking about ribbons and prizes. This is the haul this year:

The two strings of origami cranes in the front are the special prizes for Best of Class and Best of Show. They were made by Textile Guild members, and all the “Best of” winners got them. We started a tradition two years ago of giving these special prizes, and I think it’s really nice. The first year we did super-fancy tassels, and last year it was bookmarks. It’s more personal than just the ribbons.

You can also see the red, white, and blue ribbon I got on Saturday. The sewing thread doily won the People’s Choice Award!

And here are a few more miscellaneous photos to round out your fair experience (and to prove that I didn’t stand around admiring my ribbons all the time!). First off, we have Emma learning to weave:

She really got into this! I started the stick shuttle through the shed then she pulled it through the rest of the way. I evened the yarn with the selvedge, and she pulled the beater down. Repeat, repeat, repeat. She wove a good three inches before she wanted to get down.

One of Emma’s favorite parts of the fair was the livestock. The horses were a big hit, but it was the sheep that she really liked. This one was the best:

These lambs (there are two there, the other one is behind the ewe) were born on Wednesday morning, at the fair. We saw them for the first time on Thursday morning, when they were less than 24 hours old. You can’t really see it in the picture, but they still had their umbilical cords attached! They were so sweet and fuzzy and cute. Emma stood at the pen and just looked and looked and pointed and said “beebee SEEP” (that’s “baby sheep,” in case you don’t speak Emma-talk) and giggled and pointed some more. She also liked the piglets:

Which were about a week old, and liked to sleep piled up in the corner of their pen. She wasn’t much interested in the adult pigs, but she kept going back to the piglets and saying “Ny-ny piggies, ny-ny piggies” (night-night piggies).

And here’s a picture of the Grand Champion sheep pair, two Dorset cross ewes. At least I think they were ewes. I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember. Whatever they were, they were beautiful. Bright white wool, and incredibly soft. Sheep always look so clean and tidy when they’re freshly shorn. I think black-faced sheep are my favorite.

It was a very fun week.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Guess what!! I WON!!! The sewing thread doily got Best of Show in Fiber Arts!!

WooHoo!! I was fairly confident that it would get Best of Class for crochet (which it did), but there’s so much talent on these islands, I wasn’t at all sure how it would stack up against the beautiful knitting and weaving. In the back of my mind, I really really wanted it to win Best of Show, but when you’re standing there looking at all the amazing Best of Class winners spread out on the table, you have to be realistic. It could have gone to any of them. I was so nervous when the judge (Judith McKenzie-McCuin) was trying to decide which entry to give the big purple ribbon to. My heart was pounding, and I felt like there was a 20 lb. weight on my chest (I was trying really hard not to react outwardly, because the names on the entries were still covered at this point and she didn’t know it was mine). Finally she had it narrowed down to two entries, mine and a truly amazing Fair Isle sweater.

She talked about the sweater first, listing all the great and beautiful things about it, but I was thinking “OK, maybe she’s decided, and is talking about the sweater first because it’s the runner-up.” Then she talked about my doily, and said how nicely done it was, and how she’d never seen anything like it. Then she went back to the sweater and started talking about it again, and I felt totally deflated because I was sure she had picked it. Then she went back to the doily again and said things like “This reminds me of the antique lace I’ve seen in museums in Spain and the Netherlands,” and “This shows an incredible amount of talent, dedication, and attention to detail,” and “I don’t normally care much for decorative crochet pieces, but this really speaks to me,” and “This reaches a higher level of achievement,” and lots of other things that made my face turn red and my head spin. And she put the purple ribbon on the doily!

I had to sit down.

I won Best of Show in 2002, for a knitted lace shawl, but I wasn’t present during the judging that time. This time I was there all day, and the suspense at the end was incredible. I’d seen all the entries and I knew I had a shot, but........still.

When she placed the ribbon, and I was shaking and (not quite) teary from the tension release, and everyone was congratulating me, she looked at me and “YOU made that? But you have a two-year-old!”

Everything else I entered did well, too. I had 25 items in the Fiber Arts and Textile Arts Departments, and all but one got blue ribbons. In addition to the Best of Class/Best of Show for the doily, I got runner-up for Best of Class in crochet for a mobile of crochet snowflakes and Best of Class for the square hardanger doily! The only red ribbon I got was for Emma’s little ladybug dress, and nobody knows why it wasn’t blue. The judge (a different one, not Judith) only wrote glowing comments, and the Department Superintendent says she thinks it should have been given blue. Whatever, at least Emma likes it.

What snowflake mobile, you say? Well, I’ve wanted to make this for a while, but have been putting it off because I don’t like the blocking part of making snowflakes. Sticky and gluey and messy. But I wanted to enter snowflakes in the fair, and a mobile seemed the best way to display a bunch of them. So on the night before the fair, I was busy doing this:

I blocked as many as I had pins for, because I figured if I was going to get gluey, I might as well do it up right. They dried overnight, and in the morning I had this:

Emma and I had collected a few driftwood twigs on a beach walk last week, so quick like a bunny, I put together this:

Half an hour later I was at the fair turning everything in. Nothing like waiting to the last minute! It’s really hard to take a picture of a mobile, but I like the way it turned out. The only problem was when I was constructing it I wished I had some clear monofilament that I could have used to hang everything. The thread just showed up too much, and Judith mentioned it during the judging. Oh, well. It still got runner-up Best of Class. I may not keep it as a mobile, anyway. It might get disassembled for Christmas giftoids.

I would recommend against using Elmer’s Washable School Glue to stiffen textile projects. I’ve never used it before, but that was all the store had on the day before the fair. It doesn’t dry hard. The snowflakes hold their shape, but are still flexible and not quite as crisp as I’d like. They also feel ever so slightly sticky. So whether I keep the flakes in the mobile or break it up, I’ll be taking them off their threads, washing out the glue, and re-blocking them with proper glue. Emma can have the washable stuff, at some later date when she can be trusted not to glue the dog to the couch. Some people say they’ve had problems with Elmer’s yellowing over time, but I haven’t had a problem with it. Snowflakes I made 10 years ago still look like new. Of course, I only have them out over the holidays, so they’re not in the sun all year long.

So it was a fun time at the judging, and it was very interesting to hear all Judith’s comments and suggestions. I feel like I learned a lot. I made an album here for everything I entered and their ribbons, if you’re interested in seeing them. I don’t want to clog up the internet with more pictures of things I have mostly already shown here.

I do want to mention, though, that I entered handspun yarn for the first time this year. (It’s also my first time entering weaving.) I finally felt that my yarn was really consistent and good enough for judging, and I was a little nervous. I entered the skeins of 3-ply teal Colonial (worsted spun wool), 2-ply 50:50 Merino/silk (worsted spun blends), and 4-ply Rambouillet x Cormo (woolen spun wool), and ALL of them got perfect scores- 100 out of 100! I guess all that spinning last winter paid off!

One last thing and then this swelled-head entry is over. Emma got her first blue ribbon! We participated in the public library’s Summer Reading Program, and they had a booth at the fair with the final awards. The goal they set was to read enough minutes to get five stickers, at 45 minutes per sticker. If a kid did that, they got a blue ribbon. (Being read to also counted, so preschoolers could participate.) Emma loves being read to, and we not only filled the goal page of five stickers, we filled SEVEN pages! That’s 26 ¼ hours of reading since the last week of June. (And I’m sure there were books that didn’t get written down.)

The librarian who gave her the ribbon told me that Emma was their youngest participant, and also had the most minutes of anyone! That’s my girl!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Here's a shot of the finished hardanger bookmarks- cut out, washed, and pressed:

Pretty, if I do say so myself. And here's a shot of the finished sachets, all ready for the fair.

And here's the back of the sachets:

Just in case you were wondering what fabric I used. I decided on ribbon instead of twisted cording for the hanger, and to skip the cording around the edge altogether. I've already put in enough time on these that I figured if I spent even longer I'd have to charge so much that nobody would buy one.

All that's left is to print out my inventory sheet for the Sales Booth and tag each item I'm selling with the price and seller number. I have all my competition entries tagged and my Entry Summary Sheet filled out. I'm almost ready to go!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I finished the hardanger bookmarks this afternoon, while Emma was taking her nap. I'm quite pleased with the designs, and hopefully they will sell at the Fair. Tonight I'll cut out the bookmarks, wash and press them. Tomorrow I'll finish all the sachets.

This week is Fair Week! One of the highlights of my year!

  • Tuesday- Entry day, both for the judged competition and the sales booth.
  • Wednesday- Judging day, the first day the fair is open to the public. I'm working in the Fiber Arts area all day, helping the judge by writing down her comments for each entry and keeping track of the scores. Also helping with hanging displays as the judging progresses and telling visitors to keep their grubby paws of the entries. This will be a very long day.
  • Thursday- I'll take Emma around to see the rest of the Fair (she's still young enough to get in free!), then I'm working in the Sales Booth in the evening.
  • Friday- free day, nothing concrete planned.
  • Saturday- Sheep-to-Shawl!!! 10:00 to 4:00, another long day. I'll be doing the plying, and somehow I got volunteered to be the team coordinator, to keep track of how long people spin so everyone gets a chance, make sure everone takes a lunch break, and to make sure we're on track with yarn production and weaving progress.

The judge this year is Judith McKenzie-McCuin, which is really cool. I think it's great that a small community like this can attract the "big names" as well as the bigger festivals can. Judith was here two years ago to give a spinning workshop, and she's a wonderful teacher. We're having a Spin-In on Thursday afternoon, and I'll probably go to that as well.

Fair time is so exciting!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Just a quick post to show what I did over the weekend- five tops for lavender sachets to sell at the fair.

After I had finished three, I got a little bored with the dove's eyes in the middle:

So I did the next two with a different pattern:

These are really quick and fun. I filled up the whole piece of fabric doing these five, though there is a narrow strip along the long edge left over. It's not big enough for more sachet tops, but will fit two bookmarks.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Whee! Quilting is fun! I finished the Ohio Star quilt top last night! I can't believe the piecing is done already!
  • Monday night- put together one complete block.
  • Tuesday- cut out the pieces for the rest of the blocks and pieced together all the triangle units.
  • Wednesday- finished piecing the 12" blocks, cut out the sashing and border pieces, and stitched everything together.

I really like the way the fabrics work together in this. They just look happy. You can't really tell from the picture, but both the yellow and the white fabrics are prints, not solids. The yellow has a tiny floral pattern of dark gold on yellow, and the white has a white-on-white print of small leaves. And then of course, there's the ladybug fabric that always makes me smile. Emma loves it, and wanted to "go ny-ny" with it last night. She was very upset when I told her it wasn't done and she couldn't sleep under it yet.

After I finished the quilt top, I was still in a fibery mood, so I started some little hardanger sachets to sell at the fair. These will get sewn into stuffed ornaments similar to the one I showed here, but with lavender inside. Each one takes about 2.5 hours to stitch, so it's about the same time to make one of these as one of the crocheted sachets, maybe a little longer.

The one on the left is finished, and the one on the right has the cutwork done and the threads removed, but still needs the needleweaving and dove's eyes. I thought it was neat to show the stages of hardanger.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Shaun has been in Germany the past week for a scientific meeting, the lucky duck, and so it's just been me and Emma holding down the fort. While I would have liked to go with him and see a bit of Germany, our finances said no. So I stayed home and have been fibering up a storm. Unfortunately, Shaun took the camera with him, so I've been severely impaired in my blogging ability. I finally couldn't stand it yesterday, and borrowed a camera from the lab so I could show what I've been doing.

In a screeching change of direction, I decided not to make the crocheted runner after all. I had finished eight of the motifs, and as I was looking at them stacked on my side table, I said, "Hmm, you could run a ribbon through those eyelets. And I've got all that dried lavender. I think I have some tulle somewhere. Those would make really cute sachets. Do I really need a table runner?"

All I did was sew a round pouch of purple tulle, fill it with lavender, and enclose it in the motifs by weaving a ribbon through the holes around the edges of two motifs. Tie a bow, loop a hanger, and voila! Pretty sachets. I'm going to sell these at the Fair. (Well, I'll keep one for myself and to enter for judging!)

I also finished up a framed hardanger piece. I got the frame while I was off-island, because apparently it is hard to find a ready-made frame with a 6" square opening. This one is one of the put-it-together-yourself kind from Michaels. This was my first experience with lacing a piece of needlework around foamcore, and I think it came out great. I actually had to lace it twice; once for the dark green lining fabric and once for the hardanger. Lacing the lining was good practice, though next time I frame a piece of hardanger, I'll use a different color thread for lacing the lining, as it was hard to tell which threads I needed to tighten when I was lacing the hardanger.

Then on Monday night, a fit of something (I'm not sure what) came over me and I made this:

My very first quilt block ever! It's the Ohio Star pattern, and while I know that it's not perfect and the points don't all match up exactly, I'm ridiculously excited about it. I made this one block from start to finish to be sure I liked the pattern, then spent two hours yesterday cutting out the pieces for all the rest of the blocks.

There will be twelve of these 12" blocks, in three rows of four, separated and framed by a yellow lattice and the whole thing framed by a wide border of the ladybug fabric. This will fit a twin/double bed and is for Emma. She spent the whole time I was cutting fabric folding and refolding a scrap, carrying it around, and wrapping her dolly in it, all the while pointing and giggling at the ladybugs.

I did have a passing thought at how strange it is to cut up perfectly good fabric into little pieces and then sew it all back together again....