Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 County Fair Results: I Came. I Saw.

I got my butt kicked.

Where shall I start? Ok, let's start with the knitting...

First up, the "big one," my lace coat:
You can see it got a second place ribbon, and that means it wasn't eligible for the Grand Champion ribbon.

I'll take a moment to repeat an exchange I had on Facebook last week:

Aunt: Lots of great entries. I think your lace coat is the star of the entries. But that's just me.
Me: (Not just you...frankly, if it doesn't win Grand Champion, I'd like to see what does.)

So in the spirit of eating my words, I looked around for what did win. It was this hooded zippered cardigan:
Yes, nice cable work. But primarily seed stitch in a bulky acrylic. (Ok, that was a low blow; I'm not sure they're supposed to take the material into account when they're judging.) It was well done, however; don't let me imply lack of quality. I'm guessing it's the hood and zipper that put it over my lace coat, or they just didn't like the lace coat. Big disappointment there. My only comfort is that the lace coat did lose to the Grand Champion.

I didn't see another "coat or cardigan" which means despite wearing a red ribbon, my lace coat also placed last. :(

My vest entry also won second:
Also out of two, so another last place. I thought this would be at a disadvantage because it is a bulky knit (unless you're a bulky red cardigan apparently, ahem). I would have entered my (Not So) Lacy Underthing except that I forgot all the lace on the front so it was considerably less impressive.

For the sake of completeness, I'll show you the first place vest:
Small gauge and cables and colorwork. (Same knitter as the red cardigan...I think I've found my nemesis. ;)

In the pullover category,
I scored a blue ribbon (first). It was the only pullover, but at least they judged it worthy of a ribbon. (They don't have to award any ribbon if they don't think it's worth it.)

In the knitted hat/scarf/mitten set (any two pieces will do):
Another second place. I couldn't really tell why the first place one won first. Maybe the scarf was longer. The stitch wasn't any more impressive and the hat was a regular toque shape. Who knows.

In the knitted "other" category:
Again second. I looked around for what my socks were up again. I mean, in the "other" category, it could be anything!

But alas it was another pair of socks:
Stocking stitch socks. No pattern at all. I'm wondering if the judges thought it was colourwork. It's not, by the way--it's self-striping yarn. So the plainest sock you can make won over my Jaywalkers. I don't understand this one at all. Either they didn't like my short row heel vs the traditional heel-flap heel on the black socks, or they just didn't like the look of my socks. I'm baffled. (The black socks were really, really soft--probably with angora in the blend, but again, I don't think you're supposed to be judged on the material you use.)

On to quilting, oops I mean sewing... My "tied" comforter won...
you guessed it, second place! It was the first time one of my quilts was hung on the wall instead of folded and hung over a rack, so I was happy about that. The first place comforter (as far as I could tell) was on the rack, so I don't know how they make those decisions.

While I was working in the building on Monday, I heard one comment on this blanket. A lady said to her friend, "Hey! I think that's made out of tshirts." Then as she continued to look at it, "Yes, it is because I have the 2002 one on there!" They were moving on, so I didn't make conversation and ask about their volunteer time at the House but that was kind of fun.

In the jewelry category:
My bracelet could be found with the "also rans." No ribbon. I realized after I turned in my entries that I had actually entered this same bracelet in 2009. (It won third.) I didn't look up the exact rules for the miscellaneous categories, but most departments of the fair allow you to enter things over multiple years. They do put a cap on it (usually three years, I think). I'm guessing this gives you a chance to improve your item per the judge's comments. (We don't actually get judge's comments back, so it's kind of moot at this fair.)

On to canning, where I did get to hear the judge's comments because I was the clerk for this section.

First, my pears which I decided to enter at the last minute because I thought they looked bright and fresh. Well, then a quart of someone else's pears came in and made mine look down right dingy. I knew as soon as I saw them on my check-in table that I was outdone! The judges agreed. It didn't take them five seconds to put my jar aside as a non-winner for it's unappealing appearance. The quart got first place.
On to my pickled whole pears. There were eight jars in the category (that's a big group at this fair) and the one judge's immediate comment was "Oh, these are hard to do." So they stayed in the possible winners group.

Then as they were getting down to ranking 1, 2, and 3 the other judge picked them up and said to the first "Oh, you really liked these?" just to confer on what she thought. And the first judge says very off-handedly "Oh no, not particularly." They still managed a second place.
The beans is also a popular category (about eight jars). They really liked my long beans right from the start. And then again, as they were ranking 1, 2, and 3, the second judge said, "Oh I didn't notice that headspace; that's way too low." And boom! my beans were in third place.
I count myself lucky though. I think if they had noticed the head space right off, I would have been out of the running all together. (They take full jars and little head space very seriously.)

Now I'll run through the photography. The only ribbon winner was the black and white seascape with another...second place.
I'll go ahead and show the rest because now you can see them in a frame.

Black and white "head or figure"
Head or figure:
I love this metal (enamel?) frame I found at Goodwill.
(Not sure it's the best for this picture, but it will be great
for something in the future, I'm sure.)
I think the general display was a lot better since everyone had to use 8x10 frames. I hope they stick with it, despite the many questions (and complaints) from people at check in. Those were just "growing pains" from getting to know a new system.

And let's end with a cutie from the "baby animal" barn:
Too sweet, isn't he!?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

County Fair Entries (2013)

Are you ready for a parade of projects? I have 18 entries in the fair this year...

 Knitted pullover: My just-finished Scarpetta.
 Knitted coat or pullover: Lace Coat.
Knitted vest or shell: the bulky cable vest knit from raveled cashmere. I sewed up some of the holes in the back cable work and reblocked/washed it for the fair.
Knitted scarf, hat and/or mittens set: my Cowl with a Point and matching hat (personal design).
Knitted other: Jaywalker socks. Socks have won in this category the last three years, I think. It's about time I entered some. (Oh, wait not quite right. My skirt won last year. But I think some socks got second.) I reblocked/washed them and am going to submit them on my wire sock blockers for better display.

I had my sock choices narrowed down to four and then had to have Troy help me. We both wanted to chose my Malabrigo socks, but they looked a little too worn. They really frown on worn stuff--it's got to be "like new" to do well.

Sewing-comforter, tied: the NHH tshirt quilt. (Notice that the tied quilts aren't even a subcategory of quilting; they're in the sewing department. I find this interesting.)

The quilt block for the raffle quilt "The Birdhouse"

Jewelry: knitted bangle. At the very end of all the other categories there are some very general and miscellaneous categories. They have one for jewelry. I'm throwing this bangle in the ring to see how it does.

And my first canning entries!
1. Spiced pickled pears. They will go into the "other pickled" category so you never know what they will be up against.

2. Pears. They have a beautiful light colour so I think they may do well.

3. Green beans. Yes these ones were done last year just for the fair. See how they're long and all even? No one does beans like this at my fair, but my sister told me that at her fair they are much more picky (stylish?) about their canning. No one would win with cut beans. So I am giving it a try. We'll see what the judges think. (Although I know I will be marked down some because my liquid level is a little below the lid. Mine always are.)

And I'm entering even more in photography this year. While going through the fair book, I was surprised to see a change. They used to allow any standard size including panoramic. So they had pictures from 16x20 to 4x6. It made them difficult to display. This year they are trying something new: Any size picture that will fit into an 8x10 frame.

I like the idea and I hope it will make for a nicer display of pictures, but I wish I had known before I got the 11x14 developed of Squam Lake and went and paid for the framing of a large panoramic mountain view from our trip to Alberta! But no regrets because I can enjoy these pictures in my home and will be spared lugging them around!

I did have to scramble to have enough 8x10 frames, but a couple of friends helped me out and I didn't have to go out and buy any. But now I'll know for next year and keep my eye out!

This year, I'm entering my first black and whites. They have the same categories as the color pictures, but I haven't really been interested in taking black and whites. I happened to have taken a couple that I like when my family was in the UP (Michigan) on the shores of Lake Superior.

Two of my nieces walking the shore. (I cropped it a little better when it was developed, and got rid of those crocs in the lower left corner!)
Head or figure:
Another niece. I love her piercing look and doubtful smile.

Since my huge panoromic from the top of Sulpher Mountain wasn't going to work, I picked another shot from our Alberta trip. This was taken in Jasper. I love trains and mountains.

I think I've shown this one before. Squam Lake, taken early in the morning, moments before I had to leave. It was a multiple exposure shot blended later to bring out the best lows, highs and mediums. (Look at me sounding all photographer-y!)
Head or figure:
Same niece as picture 2 above. This was a walk in the woods last November in the very northwest corner of Indiana. It was a chilly day so this snake wasn't moving much. She finally got the courage to hold it when her mother asked her what Nana would think. I think she liked the idea of surprising/shocking/scaring her Nana! (She even faked kissing it for another picture.)
Still life:
This was taken two years ago on a walk through Fernwood with another sister and niece. We had a nice trek through the wood. I set up this little tableau on one of the foot bridges. My own little leaf rainbow.
I never have much really "animally" to enter in this category. I guess I mean I don't have pictures of mammals. Last year I did well with a picture of a turtle. This year it's a frog. I found it tucked into a fold of our garbage can and got as close a closeup as I could. Then I cropped in right down to the frog. The high-quality digital cameras make this so easy these days! I printed this 8x10 so it is much larger than real life.

And I think that is all of them! I will be checking them out Monday night before my shift starts, and I will report back as soon as I have a chance! :fingers crossed!:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Building a Birdhouse...Quilt Block

Ok, so the deadline for the fair was only three days away and I still had not made my raffle quilt block! The theme this year was "The Birdhouse" and I had a few ideas rolling around, but nothing concrete enough to build on.

First step, then was to do a Google image search for "birdhouse quilt block." I picked out these ones as blocks with possibilities:
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1. Nice, simple, with possibilities. Includes simple piecing and applique.
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2. Love the detail of this one. It's actually an embroidery pattern, but I'm sure you can imagine it as an applique block, with some of the details simplified. (For one thing, I probably would have dropped all the flowers and just done branches with leaves. That would be enough.) But do you remember I only had three days (and had to maintain the rest of my life too)? This was going to be too much. Pretty though.
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3. This is an ingenious simple way to do it! Cute too.
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4. Similar to above with a few more details. This is the one I most closely followed.

The easiest way to do that center part was paper piecing so the next step was to draw out the pattern. I didn't have special paper piecing paper, so I used copy paper. Just used two pieces and cut and taped them together to get a 12" square. (I would have to remember to add the seam allowances.)
I was given fabric to work with. (That's the $5 kit you buy.) This year there was a drab blue grey "sky" fabric, which was obviously meant to be the background. (It was the largest piece.) To that they added small pieces of a very plain dull red, a darkish green with a floral pattern, a dark brown spotted fabric and some dark wood grain. I could add two coordinating fabrics of my own. Well, first thing, I needed a bird. For the second piece, I went with a nice cheery yellow that had a pattern in red and green to pick up on the colors I was given.

I centered the bird in the lower triangle area and started adding rows around it:
Ok, so the only bird I had was a chicken. I know, they
don't live in birdhouses. Did I tell you I only had three
days and nothing could get done until I had a bird?
"Make do" is what I say!
And adding...
and adding...
and building...
and building
until I had a birdhouse surrounded by "sky."
All that was left was to add the base and roof. I could have done with this with paper piecing too, but it made it quite a bit more complicated and I decided applique was the way to go. The pieces were rectangles and easy to work with. I cut them out and pinned them in place:
Then I sewed them down in my best tiny applique stitches. Here's a close up of the roof section:
I think I did a nice job folding the one piece over the other. (I did the roof in two pieces instead of trying to cut out one angle-shaped piece.) This was the trickiest part of the applique and it was not tricky. (Of course there are always a hundred ways something can go wrong, and usually only one way it can go right.)

I am not counting on any prizes with this block this year. If I had started earlier and had more time, I think an appliqued bird would have upped the difficulty enough to be in the running. Or I could have added some branches and leaves like #2 above.

My real dream was to do a scene inside the birdhouse with a view out the peephole, but I couldn't make myself sit down and design it. That wouldn't have won either, but I would have been happy about it.

But that's alright. It's a fairly good block, and at least it is well made. And finally I have a year where I'm not squeaking by on the 12.5" requirement--I made it big enough I could cut it down. And someone has to be in the outer row supporting the winners in the middle, right?

May I suggest?

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