Saturday, February 23, 2008

Take it Further February-1...Finally!

I spent half of February thinking about the Take it Further Challenge colors and theme (what are you old enough to remember?). I figured that everyone participating in the challenge is around my age or older which left me feeling that there was nothing I could remember that would be particularly interesting or unusual if everyone else could remember it, too. I tried to look at it from a more personal angle--something from my childhood and came up with Richard Scarry (children's book author/illustrator) and Carol Channing!

The reason for the unusual pairing is that, as a child, I used to go to the library to borrow records, mostly stories rather than music. One of my favorites was a story by Richard Scarry about animals on a cruise ship and something (a pearl necklace?) turns up missing and an investigation ensues. Carol Channing narrated the story and her voice used to drive my poor mother crazy. I loved it, of course.

From this memory, I thought that I could try to somehow represent the story on my crazy quilt block but I can't find the story. I think it is in a book of mysteries, but my local library doesn't carry it and I decided I could just go for something more vague, ocean imagery and maybe a boat? Once I started working on the CQ block, I realized that this was not going to work very well and decided to go with the color challenge only (although I may still embroider a little ocean and a boat in the center.

To make life easier on myself this month, I have a new tactic. 1. Use a smaller block (half the size of January's block). 2. Use the stitches I learned last month and learn only a few new ones each successive month. I was getting so overwhelmed by having to learn so many new things at one time that it made me dread working on this challenge. The new arrangement has made my life much easier and I actually look forward to working on my block now. Also, I found a book on embroidery at the library that gives some very detailed instructions of various stitches that had confused me before and it has been inspiring me to try new things and play with the stitches I already know.

I'll check back in at the end of the month with my progress (and hopefully a finish?).

Also, good news: My MA paper was accepted without the need for revision! Now all I need to do is finish out my classes this semester and I'll be done! Only about 2 and a half months left. And, in a few weeks I'll be on spring (though it looks like winter to me) break. I hope very much to make a trip with Lucas to Lancaster, PA and maybe Washington, D.C.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Progress Report

It's finished!

I've been working away at projects, despite the attempts of grad school to get in the way. I finished the baby quilt and added the label today. I'm determined to send the quilt to its future owner (Finally!).

Stressing about making the label made me realize that I have a strange relationship to labeling quilts. I feel like I should do it because other people expect me to, but not that I necessarily want to do it. I had decided not to make a label for my niece's quilt but changed my mind this morning because I know I won't see her often as she grows up and I realized that it might mean a lot to her to know that I made it for her (in case no one remembers to tell her). I feel like my aversion to labeling is difficult even for me to understand.

I've noticed that I have an autumn/Halloween decoration fetish and have picked up a number of cross stitch patterns recently with these themes. I'm having a great time making progress on this one, by Brittercup, called "Haunt the Night Away." While stitching it, I've been enjoying several episodes of Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett), and my old stand by, Pride and Prejudice.

And...the toe-up sock has a toe! I love this yarn! I can't believe such a cute sock is going to be on my foot one day soon. The next class meets this Wednesday and I'll learn how to make the heel then.

It's been nice seeing what everyone else is quilting, knitting and cross stitching on their blogs. I am so inspired by what I see other people making!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Long Time, No Post

It feels like it has been forever since I last posted, probably because I've been wanting to post every day for the last week. I got caught up in the tornado that is school and only recently have come back to earth (yesterday). I've been busy revising a paper that will be submitted as my MA Thesis and have handed in the first draft. I can't tell you what a relief it is to have made some progress with it. I have to complete any additional revisions by the end of this month so that I can turn in to the university. The light at the end of the tunnel (graduation) is getting a little larger. I saw a number of people had widgets of little Christmas trees on their blogs with a countdown. I started thinking to myself that I should look into seeing if there is a personalized widget I could make to count down my graduation. But then again, maybe that would just drive me insane. :)

So I have quilted Madison's quilt and have about 1/3 of the binding hand sewn down on the back. Here is a shot of it before I started on the binding.

I decided to do free motion with a curly-Q design that I had been wanting to practice, anyway. I could stand to work on my free motion quilting, most definitely, but I didn't think it turned out too bad, in the end.

I've been reading the Sew Mama Sew blog for some time now and am enjoying their feature of quilts and quilting techniques this month for Quilting Month. They had some information about hand quilting and hand piecing that really made me think about reconsidering them. I've always sworn off hand piecing because it seems really intimidating, but one bonus is that you have more control with pieces that would be difficult to sew together by machine. Also, I had started the hand quilting already and had put it aside because I didn't think my stitches were very good. But after doing the free motion quilting on Madison's quilt and feeling like I was operating a jack hammer (that machine can really get going and Lucas said he could feel the vibration in the floor), I could see how hand quilting would be a much more relaxing way to go. Machine quilting really stresses me out, although I am sure it will get better with time. All of this is simply to say that I am going to keep working at the little hand quilting practice project I have and then give it a go on one of the quilts I make in the future. And I'm now going to give hand piecing a chance, someday...when I have some time. :)

I've been knitting away on my toe-up socks. Twice, I managed to knit a hole in them! Since I am an expert at wearing holes into my socks, I decided I didn't need to start out with one. I seem to have gotten around the problem, finally. Although it's a bit challenging, I must say, sock knitting is a blast! I'll post a picture of the toe, soon. I've got some fantastic self striping yarn and the sock is so adorable.

On SuperBowl Sunday I headed over to the LYS/LQS to pick the winning team during the annual sale, buy some yarn and fabric at a great price and enter a drawing. I won the drawing! I am now the happy owner of a nice new knitting bag. I didn't pick the winning team but still got a discount for participating, so I bought some fabric for a top secret project which I cannot reveal until it is completed.

A new knitting group was started by a graduate student in the French Dept. Last night was the second get together at a local cafe. It was great! I was so happy to meet a few people with similar interests who also love knitting/stitching. We knitted by the fireplace and chatted about the ups and downs of graduate student life. I hope the group keeps going throughout the semester because it was so nice to feel like I had a bit of community, something that has been scarce for me in a lot of ways since I moved here.

I'll try not to be such a stranger and post again soon. Thanks, everyone, for all of your very nice comments, particularly on my CQ block.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Take it Further Challenge January-3

Sorry for the poor lighting in the photo, it's a gloomy day here and it was difficult to get a good shot of it. Well, I had hoped to have accomplished much more on this block; however, this was all the progress I managed to make in January. I plan to keep working on it but I need to get a little more time to learn some stitches and SRE. My violets at the top didn't turn out quite as I expected so I gave up on trying to fill them in. Really, the main challenge for me has been finding the time and patience to sit down and learn so many new things at once.

I think I've probably taken on a bit more than I can manage well so I've tried to think of ways to make the challenge more manageable. I think that what I will do from this point on is make smaller blocks (4 in. as opposed to 8). January will be the center block and I'll sew the smaller ones around the outside of it. This way, hopefully I can actually finish my block each month and not feel so pressured to learn embroidery so quickly.

When my mom heard that I was working on a crazy quilt block, she set out to assist me by looking for old lace and searching ebay for silk ribbon. They should be arriving soon. Thanks, Mom!

I have starting sock knitting. I'll share more about that in my next post.