Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Pleasant Afternoon

I was able to spend a very pleasant afternoon in my sewing room today. And even managed to get the upper left corner of my civil war quilt done (pictured above). Yea!! Looks like my "quilt wall" has finally crumbled. I guess that what happens when you download a new quilt pattern or two. :) Pam Bono has a really nice free pattern at her site http://www.pambonodesigns.com/ . Now that my motivation has returned it's time to tackle the other quarters of this quilt. How fun!!

Quilting isn't the only area in which I've made a bit of progress lately. I actually managed to squeeze in a bit of knitting time yesterday in which I finally finished the left hand side of the lace sweater I've been working on (for way too long!). I just need to put the live stitches on a piece of waste yarn and then I'll be ready to cast on the right front side of the sweater. I'm real pleased with the way it's turning out though. Can hardly wait for it to be finished so that I can enjoy wearing it. :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Civil war quilt

I seem to have a hit a wall with this one. Was all excited and couldn't wait to start it. Spent days cutting everything out and then sewing up all 162 blocks. Even started sewing blocks together.....and got a few rows done......then I hit the proverbial quilt wall. Don't know why. I simply adore the variety of fabrics and the way they look together. The sewing is easy....the pattern simple. I even have a pair of blocks under the presser foot on my machine.....just waiting for the next pair to be sewn. The quilt is even hanging on my "design wall" in my bedroom so it's the last thing I see at night.....and the first thing I see in the morning. You'd think that would be enough to keep me going on this one.

Yes, I know the quilt is large. Too large, in fact, for my design wall. The quilt will have to be sewn in quarter sections and then the quarter sections sewn together. I think this may actually be one of the largest quilts I have ever made (115" square when done - without borders)......and that in itself is a nice challenge. Maybe it's just that there are too many other things going on in life right now and it's sucking all the quilt motivation right out of me. Which is highly unusual. When things get stressful I usually turn to quilting (or knitting...or spinning) to bring a bit of calm to my life. Oh well. Whatever it is, I hope it passes real soon. I would love to get this to where it is a completed top if nothing else by the end of the month. There is an outdoor quilt show at the end of next month that I would love to put a couple of quilts in....and they still need to be finished!

For those of you who might be interested in the pattern, here is the pertinent information. The pattern is called "Past and Present". It was designed by Amy Walsh of Blue Underground Studios (blueundergroundstudios.com). It can be found in the February 2008 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting. While the pattern is simple it called to me. So this project started out as a way to use up the small collection of civil war reproduction fat quarters I had. I was going to make a lap sized quilt, but discovered that I had enough fabric for a king size (or so I thought at the time). It wasn't until I was half-way through with the cutting that I discovered that I really didn't have enough fabric for a king....or anything larger than a twin for that matter. Since I really didn't want to put all those extra cut pieces into the scrap bin it was easier (and way more fun) to simply shop for more fabric. I think there is somewhere between 40-50 different fabrics in my quilt. As far as I know all are civil war reproduction fabrics.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fall wall hanging

Here is a picture of my fall wall hanging. It doesn't have a name yet simply because I haven't a clue as to what to call it. I opted to go with leaves and berries in the outer border. Really love the way it looks. Plus the bird on top is a cute touch. There is no pattern for this little quilt. I had some left-over blocks from another project and simply put them together in a pleasing manner. The applique in the outer border was a "as you go" type of design. It's glue basted in place in the picture. I will start stitching it all down tonight. I hope to have all the applique done and the quilt ready for quilting in a few days. It just all depends on how much free time I have.....and how many disruptions (or interruptions) there are.

Spent the last couple of days bringing in hay for the year. Last year we brought in 3 ton and ended up having to buy another ton and a half come February. This year we opted to bring in 4 ton. With any luck it should last the sheep at least 8 months.....if not a bit longer. Bucking bales definitely lets you know exactly how old you are! Thankfully these were relatively light bales......65-70 pounds each....with the occasional "heavy" bale. Those were rolled, not carried, into the barn.

This year of bringing in hay was a rather unique experience. We were actually able to see it in the field before it was cut. I had never seen alfalfa in the field before and was surprised to discover that it is a rather pretty little plant that gets purple blooms on it. After the field was cut and baled, we spent the first day of bringing in hay going out in the field and loading it up on the truck. We had never loaded from the field before so it was a new experience for us.....and a rather tiring one. We brought two ton in this way. We were going to bring in all four ton but wanted to make sure the sheep liked it first.....which they did. The second two ton we opted to have delivered for a small fee. We figured we would have spent the money on gas for the truck anyway, so why not give our aging bodies a break and simply have it delivered. It was brought in on a harrow.....which is something I have never seen. I don't think I could describe it even if I had to. All I know is that the harrow is set up to pick up the bales from the field....stack them on the back of the harrow......and then unload them without any physical labor. The machine does it all. Plus you can simply drive it to wherever the hay will be stored. It was pretty neat to see. I'm thinking we will be buying from the same grower next year and hopefully he will be willing to deliver our hay again using the harrow.

Hay around here is at a premium and is relatively hard to find. It's not that less people are growing hay. It's that more growers are finding it economically feasible to haul their crop to the center of the state so it can be shipped overseas and sold.....pretty much leaving the local buyers in the lurch. The growers that are still willing to sell to local buyers have raised their prices to a ridiculous level making it quite difficult for some people to even afford hay. The "stories" going around about people leaving or selling their livestock is unbelievable. I've even heard of people taking their horses up into the forests and simply letting them go because they can't afford to feed them anymore. The livestock auction has been exetremely busy and I've heard that horses can now be bought for as little as $20. I've even heard that the places that usually buy horses for "other uses" have more than they can use and are no longer buying. As for cattle and other livestock.....well, you really don't hear a whole lot about their plight in this time of ridiculously high hay prices. I think it's horses that are being affected the most. I'm just thankful that I can still afford to keep my small flock of sheep in hay. It takes 3 ton of hay to feed one horse for a year. I'm feeding 21 sheep and 1 llama on 4 - 4 1/2 ton a year......just to give a rough idea of how much a single horse requires......and this came from a long-time horse owner. I know I was just floored when I heard how hay is needed just to keep one horse. I do hope that hay prices come down and that more of the local growers will keep their crop here instead of selling it overseas. It doesn't seem fair that so many should suffer just so a few can benefit. There has to be a middle ground somewhere. Let's just hope it is found real soon.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sewing bliss

Sewing bliss is exactly what the addition of this machine brought to my sewing room. :) For years I have been wanting a sewing machine that had a nice variety of decorative stitches. While I may not use them on a regular basis they are nice to have.....especially for those projects that just scream for that special touch. I thought my Bernina had everything I had always wanted in a sewing machine. It came with all those wonderful perks. Knee lift....needle-up, needle-down.....and a small selection of decorative stitches that could be switched out if you purchased a program designed just for this purpose. I was estatic!! Here I had finally gotten the machine of my dreams with unlimited decorative stitches......as long as you had the program that is. Well, I saved my pennies and the day came when I was able to purchase that one program for my Bernina. Went to purchase it only to find out that my Bernina was an early model and it wasn't set up to be used with this one program......and it was way too expensive to have it set up. My heart sunk. Here I was with this wonderful machine that still didn't have the array of decorative stitches that I have always wanted. And with the prices of new machines.....well, let's just say it wasn't going to happen anytime this decade.

As luck would have it I was down at the Pfaff dealer learning about the finer points of adjusting the tension on my featherweight when my eye was drawn to a single machine in the used machine section of the shop. Before I left I made sure to go over and check out what had caught my attention. It was a Pfaff 7550 in immaculate condition.....and had absolutely everything with it. I spent a day debating on whether to purchase yet another machine.....and showed up at the shop early Monday morning with butterflies in my stomach. I wasn't sure whether the machine would even still be there. It was and I was finally able to bring home my "dream" machine. Yea!!!! It has over 200 decorative stitches with the capability to create an unlimited amount with the creative designer unit that came with it. It has a beautiful stitch (even when doing a pretty complex decorative stitch) and is so incredibly quiet when it runs. It will take me a while to figure things out completely.....but will be a very enjoyable journey. Sometimes sewing bliss doesn't come in just a single machine. There are times when it comes in multiple machines.....and what is better than having wonderful machines to create with. :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Spinning....and other things

Haven't been doing much quilting lately. Been too busy spinning....and having way too much fun with it. I've definitely made a nice dent in the hand-painted polypay roving that I've been playing with. Looks like I only have about 3 ounces of it left to spin.....if that much. Of course the exciting part about it all is the new book that came in the mail yesterday. It's called "Spinning for Softness and Speed" by Paula Simmons. It's not a book that is currently on the market. This was originally published in 1982. So far I've only read the first two chapters and have found it to be a real eye-opener. The book basically focuses on the one-handed or point of contact spinning method. A method that once mastered will allow the spinner to spin a more consistent, even, and soft yarn with very little effort. Yes, I did give it a try (even though I've only read the first couple of chapters) and was pleased to discover that I already use a modified version of this method. And here I was thinking that I just spun funny. :) So now my goal is to finish reading the book and to "fine tune" my spinning technique. Reading this book has sure made me relax quite a bit when it comes to my spinning. Especially since I have recently discovered lace knitting (and am loving it!) I foresee quite a bit of spinning in my future.

A quick update on my lace sweater........progress is slow.....real slow. But what is done so far looks really pretty. I'm still working on the left front panel of the sweater. I've only been knitting a couple of rows a day. Really need to re-think my daily schedule so that I have a bit more time for knitting. Or simply learn to manage my time a bit better. I had hoped to have my sweater finished by the end of June. Considering it's the first of July......well, it's pretty safe to say that won't be happening. Maybe I can set a goal of finishing it up by the end of July.....if I learn to manage my time a bit better.....and don't get sidetracked by different projects.....which I tend to do quite often. :)

I'm still working on the applique border for the one wall hanging. Progress has been slow on that as well. Of course it doesn't help things much when it spends most of its time sitting waiting for me to actually work on it. The vine that goes all the way around the quilt center is just about done though. I only have a small part left to stitch down. Then it's a matter of figuring out exactly what I want to do with the rest. Berries and leaves.....just berries......no berries......leaves and flowers instead??? The quilt has a nice fall feel to it and the outer border that I'm appliquing is 4" wide.....so the applique should be kept fairly simple. I think anything busy will just make it look too crowded.