Saturday, October 31, 2009

AQS Des Moines Show: Final Day

A nice surprise for me after I came around a corner in the skyway this morning.

I got myself out of bed and packed in time to get to my 9:00 class. Actually I was so early I had time to do some knitting just outside the Iowa Hall of Pride. (Class was in the IHP theatre.)Like the night before, I got a lot of peaceful knitting in while a whole slew of other people lined up to get into the hall. Well, I was peaceful until I came to this:A knot in my ball of wool. Not only a knot--which I can deal with--but a complete break in the colour pattern. The blues are supposed to fade gradually from dark to medium to light and back again. Not slam-on-the-breaks-now-blue-is-white. I was....well, outraged might be a bit strong, but it's on the right track. But I decided that I should just be grateful I was just making a pair of socks and not a carefully planned sweater or gift or something where it really really mattered. (Although it does matter to me, a small voice in my head replied.) I told myself to get over it it.

And mostly, I did. After I dealt with the knot, we were let into class. (Everyone in line got a seat, and I did too.) The lecture was given by Marti Michell. The name didn't mean anything to me, but I learned that she is a mover and shaker in the quilting world and has been for a long time. The topic of the lecture was "Low Carb Quilting" based on her book Machine Quilting in Sections. She explained that the "Low Carb" was because by quilting in sections, you reduce bulk. (Groan...) She had a lot of quilt samples held up by a couple volunteers Marti Michell Lectureand explained several ways you can quilt a full-size quilt in sections. I had seen other methods which I definitely didn't like. Her methods give a good result and look agreeably doable too.

Her handout did not describe the methods, however. That's when I realized it was a lecture, not a class and that meant for the full details I would have to buy the book!! But I got enough notes that I think I can get started on my own. I may even be able to apply one method to my Hawaiian Star even though it's already all assembled.

I'm so happy I stayed the extra day and caught this class. Class did run a little late so I cut out so I could catch my flight. No problems there. (I love flying out of small airports!) I had enough time for more knitting at the airport.I finished the second sock at the Chicago airport while waiting for my second flight. Got called to board just as I was finishing my sewn bind off. So I worked in all the ends at the beginning of the flight and called them done!As I laid them on my lap to take pictures, the woman next to me asked if they were my first socks. No, I said, (a little embarrassed) I just take pictures of everything...

Friday, October 30, 2009

AQS Des Moines Show: Day Penultimate

Another busy and packed day. Fortunately the morning wasn't quite so early and Clures and I could get into town after rush hour traffic. No accidents and no rain (and only one U-turn). We'll call that a good commute.

We started in the Historical East Village, a neighbourhood of nice [touristy] shops, and we started at Pure Paper. I am addicted to all things paper! I found some nice things on the discount table, including a pack of assorted greeting cards.
I couldn't see which cards were included and bought it solely because I liked the top card. (The "Tic Tac Snow" card, right side.) Imagine my delight when I went through and found this fabulous mitten card--could there be anything better?! Love it!

We visited a few more shops doing more admiring than buying. By then it was time to return to the car. Unfortunately we had forgotten to feed the meter (despite my purse being weighed down with change the whole trip) and we had a parking ticket. Bah!

Not a good note to end on, but it was time for Clures to fly away home. She dropped me at the hotel and then I was on my own. I had nothing scheduled til 6 that night, and some knitting calling my name so after I got myself settled into my room, I settled in my room. There's nothing like some good knitting time in front of reruns and...getting a project done!

I finished my first sock:And here's the hat-heel:
Isn't it fabulous!? And fits like a dream. The leg ended up a lot longer than I thought it was going to be when I considered how much yarn was left after finishing the toe. Eight rows to an inch gets you pretty far, I guess!

Then it was time to get out of the hotel room. I decided to head to the Iowa State Capitol Building:
There's a free shuttle that runs across the downtown. I missed the first one by seconds. I missed the second one because it didn't see me huddling in the doorway out of the cold wind and I didn't see it coming. I did catch the third one. Considering they come every 10 minutes, that's 20 minutes out in the cold I'll never get back...

My visit to the capitol building was a little strange. The building is nice and has some very nice things to see. I wanted a tour so that I could find out all those interesting things that I don't know I don't know. The stories behind the things. The three people at the tour desk told me a tour could start in 10 minutes but that the rules prohibited them from giving a tour to just one person.

I laughed because there was like nobody around and there was no way more people were going to show up in the next 10 minutes. And nobody did. So I did the self-guided tour while the three of them sat at the desk and talked about what they ate for lunch, or what they were going to have for dinner, or some other equally important topic.

Sorry, does this sound too much like complaining? It was just too weird. (Is this where I say, "That's government for you?" Well, I'm not going to.)

I visited both chambers (House and Senate--that is what you call them in this country, isn't it?), but the most impressive room was the library.
Look at all those rows and stacks and balconies of books! What intricate railings! And strictly for the librarians is a matching spiral staircase to get to all the levels:
Also included is a dumbwaiter so they don't have to carry all those precious books up and down the narrow stairs:
And lest you think I've completely lost the "crafty" part of this blog, there were quilt blocks everywhere in the building:
Surely you see the quilt blocks there? It's not just me, right?

And this window in the dome of the library:
And even the common stairway:
Look at all those great quarter-square triangles and the fancy quilting "motifs" represented in white.

When I decided my tour was over, I grabbed the free shuttle again (did a little better with the timing this time) and swung by the River Walk to show you a new bridge they're putting in:
See how the two halves swing apart before coming back together at the other side? It's so elegant. One of the pedestrian bridges they're building/improving along the river. I'll need to come back so I can walk out on it.

After admiring the bridge, I went back into the show and took another look at the quilts. I also took my first real look at the vendors. I swung by Cheryl Barnes' booth and caught part of her lecture about how and where to quilt. (Can you tell that's something I'm thinking a lot about right now?)

I ended up buying two books, Distinctive Designs in Continuous Line and More Than Celtic both by Shauna Thompson:
They're both basic books of beginner designs, which is where I'm at, so that's good.
I think the designs are a little faint in the picture, but basically the designs are laid out with directions on how to adapt to machine and continuous-line designs.

One thing I've picked up at this show is that I need to build a "stash" of quilting designs as much as a stash of fabric options. Now, I try very hard to keep my stash "reasonable" (understanding that everyone draws the line at a different place) and I expect I'll do the same with quilting designs. But zero is not really reasonable if you want some options or something to get the ideas going. Three books this trip will get things started!

When I had seen about as much as I could take in, I went to wait for Ami Simms' lecture on Living with Quilts. I think I was about an hour and a half early (which was fine because I needed to start that second sock) and was just in time to see the line start. And grow. And grow. Pretty soon they had a second line because the first one ran out of room.

But I just sat on my bench (padded bench) and let them line up. As far as I knew there were chairs for everyone with a ticket and you can hear Ami just as good from the back of the room as the front. So I let them line up. I bonded with some other women who came and shared my bench and my attitude about lines.

I have to say even if I had had to wait in the line--standing the whole time--it still would have been worth it. Ami was very funny (her delivery resembles Ellen's if that gives you any idea). She started late but had everyone eating out of the palm of her hand right from the start. Very fun.

Then it was a good long walk through the elevated skyways that Des Moines has. The whole downtown is accessible by weather-impervious "sidewalks." Pretty clever of them, isn't it!?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

AQS Des Moines Show: Day 2

Iowa Capitol Building by NightDay 2 started with another 8:30 class. We left even earlier, not because we were counting on getting around another accident but because they were forecasting torrential rains.

The rains didn't show up (and in fact pretty much all day we were inside when it rained and the rain held off when we were walking outside--good for us!) and we got to class with 30 minutes to spare.

The class was called, "Show Off!!" (yes including two exclamation points), by Renae Haddadin. She not only discussed, but also showed us all kinds of way to fill in the background of a quilt in order to highlight the areas you don't fill in. It's kind of ironic that the "background" areas can take the majority of quilting time. The more you quilt something, the more it is pushed to the back so the areas that you want to recede and not have people pay attention get the densest quilting. In general, anyway.

Back to the topic at hand, Renae had the class set up so that she could quilt on the longarm as she was talking and someone else (her husband, we presume) used a video camera to capture image that was projected onto the large screen at the front of the room.
Here, Renae is just starting to fill in one area of the motif. (Please keep in mind that I captured Renae in the worst possible lighting; she is a very good looking woman.)

It was an interesting talk which gave me lots to think about but probably not a lot that I will put to use right away. It was more applicable to longarm quilters and I "just" have a domestic machine (as they're called).

Renae had some incredible quilts hanging. I took pics but don't feel like I have the right to post them. However, I have found some links which will show you what I saw.

My absolute favourite is "Sugar and Spice." Best whole cloth quilt ever, IMHO.
There was "Beauty from Within" which included some subtle fabric painting to highlight the quilting even further. (Click on "Beauty from Within" from the AQS website.)
"Ring around the Rosie" was another whole cloth with embroidery.

Anyway, I'm sure you get the idea. There was time in the class to try out some of the ideas on the longarm machines too. (It was sponsored by HandiQuilter, after all.)

After class, we went into the exhibit hall again and saw some more quilts. (I'll repeat that AQS forbids me from posting pictures; very sorry.) Then we ran for the shuttle to take us to the Quilt Walk at Valley Junction. About 10 shops, galleries and eateries had set up special quilt displays and were offering discounts and specials to AQS attendees.

Clures and I walked all around town and stopped at every place that caught our eye. Some purchases of mine:

First, some beads (for knitting with) and some silver supplies:
Then I found some beautiful blue fabric with little boomarang shapes in different tans and browns. I'm thinking it may be a good border for the brown/tan quilt I started buying for in July. I also found some more browns and tans:
I found some gorgeous reds. I'm collecting them just because. The second from the left is especially nice (and unusual):
A book. Quilting Inside the Lines by Pam Clarke. Helen Squire recommended her technique when she was talking about my quilt yesterday:
And two little fat quarters for two quilters I wanted to give a souvenir:
Are you one of the quilters??? You'll have to wait to see!

Now what about my socks? I did get some knitting in today. Finished the toe:
and started the leg.
I even thought I might get this sock done today. (I am running out of wool after all.) I was just going to knit the leg as far as I could get and bind off. Sounds simple, right?

Well, I got back to the hotel room, took another look...and do you see what I see?
Let me circle it for you:
My 2x2 rib has a 4 in it. Oh, big sigh. (The really sad part is that when I picked up stitches for the leg I added two stitches because I didn't think my total was divisible by four. Can this math major ever do arithmetic? Or count how many stitches I have? Like I said, :sigh:)

So I ripped it all out. Now I'm starting the leg all over with a real 2x2 rib. I should be knitting on it now....

So good night!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AQS Des Moines Show: Day 1

We made it to our first class of the show: Quilting Queries with Helen Squire. (A little late due to some traffic issues, but I won't get into that. It's just good to remember that if you're in the stop and go traffic in an unfamiliar city with an 8:30 class, you're still having a better day than the people in the crashed vehicles.)

Helen was very fun and energetic. She spent most of the class looking at student's quilts and giving ideas of what area to quilt, what to quilt there and why. Lots of lessons by example. It was great looking at everyone's quilts. Most were wall hangings.

Mine, of course, was not. I went ahead and packed my mongo Stars and Spikes (she hated that title, by the way, but oh well...) and submitted it to discussion. She focused on the outer area between the border spikes and the corner spikes. (Sample area outlined in orange below.)
She pointed out that the red/pink should be treated together with the light blue as one area. They're both "background" to the spikes which are the items to be highlighted or featured. I had come to this same conclusion, so I gave myself a pat on the back for that!

She first mentioned feathers and I said that that's what I'd seen in other Hawaiian Star quilts. But she must have heard something in my tone, because she asked how I liked it. I said I didn't really like feathers. (Now, before you go crazy on me, I think feathers look good, but I feel no calling to do them myself. There's a difference.)

So she gave some other ideas and techniques to use and the "light bulb" comment that what I am dealing with is basically a swag. Swags are very common in the outer borders of quilts and that's what would fit in the shape outlined above (roughly). That idea alone will help a lot with what patterns I look at and how I think I can use them.

Yeah!! I'm so excited. I really needed a place to start with this one.

Helen ended the class with a very quick review of how to apply a border design to a quilt, the various corners you can make from the design, and how those "corners" can be used to quilt in the blocks. Let me tell you, the lady's good.

The classroom itself was freezing but that is one thing you don't really need to worry about at a quilt conference:
There were lots of quilts to go around!

After lunch we went to the "Coloriffic" lecture from Mickey DuPre. No pictures, sorry. But she was entertaining, had lots of great pictures of blocks in different colours, and knew her stuff. What more can you ask for? Oh, well, she had a lot of gorgeous art quilts on the wall too. So even more than you could ask for.

Then we walked through the main exhibit hall. I have lots of pictures, but I can't show you even one! :-( Sorry, AQS rules forbid it. Clures and I walked through about half of the quilts on show. (We needed to pace ourselves.) We haven't visited any of the vendors yet.

Then we fit in a visit to the Des Moines Botanical & Environmental Center. There was a quilt display there as well (again no pictures allowed), and lots and lots of succulents (and a few orchids).
I must say it's a little odd to see common houseplants growing over 10 feet tall. A little too Little Shop of Horrors for me! But they were gorgeous. Textures. Colours. Patterns. (And it was warm--not like some classrooms I could mention.)

A pretty full day, right? Whew, it was!

Meanwhile, I did get a little knitting done.
Got the heel done (twice) during and between the flights yesterday. Started with the woman's size but since I was using worsted wool instead of sock yarn, they were way way way too big. Thought about making adjustments, but decided going down a couple sizes would be a better way to do it. So I ripped it all out and started over.

And it seems to be working.
Another 8:30 class tomorrow morning and more quilts to see in the exhibit hall...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trip Project

Today I'm flying out to Des Moines for the AQS show.

I had to bring some knitting, but I was determined to pack light. Lighter than light. (I'm really trying to avoid any check in luggage, and I also have to allow for the possibility--however slight--that I might actually buy a few things while I'm there.)

That means I am restricting myself to ONE project. One. Scary.

So I'm making it a good one. Or I hope it will be a good one. I've been waiting to make these socks since the pattern came out on knitty this fall. I've had the wool since Erica's sidewalk sale this past summer. It's Nashua Handknits Wooly Stripes and should stripe up great.The pattern is the Hat-heel sock:
1 across
Instead of starting at the top (like traditional socks) or from the toe, you start at the heel and then knit the leg up from there and the foot/toe down from the other side.

Advantages as listed by the designer, Kathleen Sperling:
  1. No uncertainty about how many stitches you’ll need to cast on: because you start right at the tip of the heel and make it bigger and bigger, you start every pair of socks the same way no matter what size feet you’re making the socks for.
  2. It looks pretty nifty, once you get your head past the idea that the gussets are in an unusual place.
  3. You get the “I know I’ll have enough yarn for both socks” advantage of toe-up construction.
  4. You get the “getting the correct foot length is easier” advantage of top-down construction.
  5. You get a heel that really, truly fits.
Sounds pretty convincing, doesn't it?

The pattern isn't written for worsted weight, but I'm assuming I'll be able to figure it out. (Especially in light of #1 and #4 above.)

I've been assured by every online source I can find that knitting needles are very much allowed on domestic flights. Let's hope my security agents know that.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekend Projects

I started two different little projects this weekend.

First of all, I sorted through my "felting" sweaters that have been sitting around in my laundry room for quite a while. I found one cotton shirt which I obviously bought to wear since there's no way to felt it. So off it went to the laundry.

And I sorted out another sweater that I can't imagine why I would want to felt:
It was a little thick and heavy already, so would only get stiffer with felting. Plus, it's 15% nylon which is a little high for felting. (But just about right for socks!) So I raveled it.

Well, I should admit that I started to ravel it. I got the seams picked apart which is no small feat in itself. And I got the front done and wrapped into a skein (344 meters). But the back is just started and the sleeves are still waiting.
I'm lucky my honey puts up with projects like this sitting on the couch for days. (I do try to keep the chair empty for him.)

As for the felting, there were a high percentage of sweaters with buttons on them. (Part of why they're being felted instead of raveled--the front of a cardigan is generally cut and sewn down the button edges and you don't get one continuous length of yarn.)

I dutifully cut off all the buttons to save for some other garment or project:
I really like the big burgundy ones. Sadly there were only two of them.

Here is a sampling of the sweaters I was doing:
Wouldn't that be a nice combination? I love it. The striped one was, unfortunately, overfelted and is now very stiff and thick. I might still use it; we'll see.

I did more sweaters but you'll have to wait to see the results. Right now I'm figuring on cutting them into squares and sewing up baby blankets; they could be really cute.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One Potato, Hot Potato

While visiting family this past summer, my MIL showed me a fabric bag she had which cooked perfect baked potatoes in the microwave in minutes. And then I saw them for sale in several stores we went to.

But naturally I thought to myself, "I don't have to buy this. I can make it!" You soon as I get around to it, or have a good excuse...

When the need for a birthday present for my cousin became more pressing, I remembered this humble bag. I also remembered that my cousin had said she never got to eat potatoes because her family preferred rice. And it's no fun to cook potatoes for one. Well, unless you have a magic potato baker bag!

Before I get to the details of construction, let me tell you a potato story. I have always loved potatoes--pretty much in any form except potato salad, but especially plain boiled potatoes. We had them a lot when I was growing up. Now my farmer dad loved his potatoes too, but I could give him a run for his money. We used to compete at dinner for who was eating the most.

Now I'm sure when I was very small he was just humouring me, but there came a time when he had to cut his pieces in two to keep ahead!! (It's not really cheating when you reveal the secret, right?) I think of this often while eating potatoes (which I still do a lot).

Now on to the details:

The construction is pretty basic, but I looked online to verify dimensions and to ensure that I didn't miss anything. These online instructions were very helpful.

I pulled out my sewing tools, and some simple homespun cotton I had laying around:
I cut a strip of fabric about 10" wide and the width of the fabric (about 44"), and then sewed the short ends together to make a tube. I also made a couple strips of "bias" tape from some denim from some old favourite jeans. ("Bias" in quotes because it was actually cut on the straight grain since I wasn't turning any curves with it.)

I then laid the fabric onto some batting scraps and cut it to the same size:

Next, insert the batting inside the tube:

Then sew any kind of pattern to keep the batting in place (especially if you want to be able to wash it, which you do):
I decided to do a incomplete cross-hatch pattern. I didn't want anything too complex on the busy plaid pattern and the diagonal lines contrasted just enough with the vertical and horizontal pattern.

I just quilted until I felt like I had enough:

Now trim the edges:

And then I finished the edges in two ways. (Did I mention I made two bags? One for me, and one to share.)

1. Simple seam. With the bag inside out, sew the open edges shut:
(Note, I did not sew over the pins behind the needle. When the beginning/end of a seam is tricky or extra thick like this one is, it's much easy to sew to the edge than to start at the edge. So, I start in the middle of the seam and sew to the end. Then turn it over, start about an inch back from the previous start and sew to the other end. It's a good trick.)

Trim a little of the excess seam allowance, turn the bag right side out and you're done!

2. Binding the edges. I pinned the light denim bias tape to each edge:
I sewed along the raw edge with a narrow seam allowance, leaving plenty of bias tape on each side to finish the ends. Folding the bias tape over the seam and matching the folded edge with the seam line, I sewed it down by machine with a blind hem stitch.

Et voila! two completed potato baker bags:
I had to try it out before giving it as a gift and I have to say it worked well. We have harvested a lot of russet potatoes from the garden and they bake beautifully. The only bad part is that we have an incredibly old and weak microwave so it takes more than a couple minutes if you have anything more than two small potatoes in there. Considering we're usually cooking for one or two, this is not really a problem.

This is a great little project, especially for me because I love me my spuds!

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...