February 27, 2012

Be my Friend?

And now for a shameless plea: I've added the Friend Connect gadget over in the sidebar. You probably will have to scroll to find it, since it was so sad and empty I couldn't leave it at the top where it'd be totally obvious. Would you be so kind as to click on the big blue "Join this Site" button and "friend" my blog?

I've avoided putting the gadget in the sidebar for years, figuring I didn't need the regular reminder that I probably spend a lot of time talking to myself over here. But I have been more active here in the last few years, and I'm getting more comments than I used to (thank you!), and some people use Blogger's dashboard to follow blogs (I'm fond of my RSS reader on our iPad, but not everyone likes that method). In some small effort to be reach-able to lots of people - voila - new gadget.

So, if it's not too much trouble, even if you don't use Blogger's dashboard, would you be my friend?

Thanks! You're awesome, too!

February 24, 2012

Something finished!

I learned to crochet when I was a kid. I probably made some pot holders, although mostly what I remember is really coarse yarn (I think it had a high synthetic content) and squares that wouldn't stay square. Interest waned, and I eventually took up my fabric habit instead of a yarn habit.

But my particular fabric habit doesn't travel well. I don't piece by hand, quilt tops are generally too big to carry along on outings, and the embroidery and cross-stitch I do isn't something I can do while in conversation. I needed small projects that I could pick up and put down easily, that weren't really bulky, that my hands could do while my brain did something else (talk to someone, watch Caitlyn at a playground, etc). So, I came back to crocheting.

None of which explains why I've chosen a couple of times now to crochet a blanket. Hats, scarves, wrist warmers, shawls, even an abandoned pair of socks - these are all relatively small, portable projects. Blankets get big.

soft shell blanket
Like this one, which is just a smidge shorter than I am and about twice as wide. It took a bit more than two years to finish, mostly because it became unwieldy and difficult to take places, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of crocheting as a portable project.

soft shell blanket
The yarn is Cotton Ease by Lion Yarn, in Stone, Lake and Charcoal, which is a strange name for a color that's more a navy blue than black. The pattern is something which may or may not be called "soft shells" (it was a free pattern online somewhere), which I may or may not have done correctly. It's a four row repeat that's a bit brainless and results in a blanket that has a definite "front" side. Which seems weird to me. Although quilts almost always have a front and a back, so why the same in a blanket would bother me is strange.

soft shell blanket
I'm unlikely to swear off making blankets, although the immediate goal is to keep future crochet projects small and portable. Given my wide practical streak, it's unlikely I'll take up crocheting amigurumi. Maybe I should make granny squares next time. Or just stick to hats for Warm for Winter donations.

February 21, 2012

More Half-Square Triangles

The theme for the month at the Craftsy BOM this time around is Half-Square Triangles. Instructor Amy Gibson covered the traditional "drawn-line" method (layer your squares, draw a diagonal line, sew on either side, cut apart) and the alternative "magic" method (layer your larger squares, sew around all four sides, make two diagonal cuts). A little funny that I'm HST-ing twice this month.

windblown star
This block is a traditional design, a Windblown Star or a Balkan Puzzle. Favorite block this time around, and perhaps of all four so far (January's are here). I'm also really happy with my color selections, although I can't tell you anything about the fabric. It's all stash fabric for this quilt.

chunky chevron
The second block for February is this "Chunky Chevron". Maybe some day I'll make a full quilt with just this block and do something interesting and deliberate with the colors.

I used the "magic" method for the HSTs in the Windblown Star and the "drawn line" method for the Chunky Chevron. I really like how easy the magic/alternative method is; maybe it's just that I've still not found the ideal marking tool, but the drawn line method tends to give me a stuttery line to follow and I feel like I'm distorting the fabric when I'm marking. Lots of people in the Craftsy class say that they feel they get better accuracy with the traditional method, but I'm not sure I can say. I think I'd have to make the same block both ways. I think my points line up pretty well in both blocks, even though my HSTs for the Windblown Star were just a tiny bit too small (instructions should have started those original squares a little bit bigger). So, if my points are less than perfect, is it the HST method or the too-small initial square?

Only one way to be sure: go piece some more!

February 15, 2012

Pass the veggies

As mentioned previously, I've gone a little sampler/block of the month crazy. It's like my eyes being bigger than my stomach at a buffet or something. Like one handful of chocolate chips is good, so two must be better. Just to prove I don't know when to say "Enough!", I was almost-seriously thinking about joining an online quilting bee, although that was more about making connections with other people than with participating in a dozen more quilts. I probably should find a way to work on the social thing without giving myself more to do....

Anyway, I've finished the first two blocks for In Color Order's HST Block of the Month. Ta-da!

HST BOM blocks
January's block...

HST BOM blocks
and February's block.

This project was supposed to be a scrappy one, but I ended up buying new fabric after all. Remember the salad bowl skirt? I still had some vegetables (thanks to Lianna for providing some more!), so the plan (such as it is) will be to make additional vegetable blocks to add into the collection of HST blocks. Maybe as setting blocks. Maybe more randomly. With one block each month, there will only be 12 HST blocks; this seemed unreasonably small to me, thus the veggie block idea. Of course, all this thinking happened without really realizing the blocks would be 12 inches square. Without borders or sashing, 12 blocks make a 3 ft by 4 ft quilt, which might not be that small after all.

Now I'm just over-thinking it. Veggie blocks! That's all we need to know!
veggie fabric

This project contains several personal firsts. It's my first time working with all solids in my blocks. I think it's only my second time working with a white background (the Bloggers' BOM was first). It may be the first time in recent memory that the blocks finish at 12 inches; so many of my projects have smaller blocks (and smaller pieces!). I'm using the new-to-me "alternative" method of making half-square triangles (sew two squares right sides together, cut into quarters from corner to corner, open and press), which is now officially my new favorite HST method. I didn't have any trouble with the bias edges, although that could be because there were several mentions of the edges being on the bias and so I was extra careful.

I might want to be more particular about pressing seams open on future blocks. I typically press the seam to one side, which is helpful for matching points, but this habit worked out to be a bit on the bulky side for these blocks.

HST BOM blocks
These came out so crisp and bright, and I'm looking forward to seeing the whole quilt emerge.

February 13, 2012

New Rule

gap-toothed grin

Teeth lost after 12 midnight Will Not be reported to the Tooth Fairy until the following daylight period. No matter how many times you wake up your mother to tell her your tooth fell out and the resulting hole feels "like the suction cup on an octopus tentacle."

February 09, 2012

Crying over Broken Plates

During the usual Wednesday shenanigans yesterday, we lost a plate. It shattered in typical Corelle fashion, tiny fragments surrounding a waffle (peanut butter side down, of course) and skittering across the kitchen floor. The impact scared the cat so badly, he knocked over the stool he'd been on as he fled the room.

I don't know if it's a testament to the durability of Corelle dishes or just a particularly wide streak of luck, but this is the first plate we've lost in more than 10 years. Someone did point out that once you break one, the rest follow suit in solidarity, so maybe I shouldn't feel quite so self-congratulatory.

During the cleanup, though, I looked up to find Caitlyn in obvious distress. She was at the table and had been told to stay put until we got things cleaned up, since there were plate shards pretty much everywhere and she wasn't wearing shoes.

I asked her if she was hurt at all.


"What's the matter?"

"I really liked that plate!" Her face quivered a little, clearly trying not to cry.

It's going to be ok, I told her. It's a really common pattern from a really common dish company. If we miss the plate, we can buy a replacement at the outlet store next time we drive to Portland.

When the floor was clean and it was safe for feet again, Caitlyn got down from her chair and I asked if she needed a hug. She jumped up and wrapped herself around me and cried on my shoulder. It's ok to be sad, I told her.

I wonder if we should have broken a plate before this...

February 08, 2012


handwriting meme

The prompts answered above are:
1. Name
2. Blog address
3. Write: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
4. Favorite quote.
5. Favorite song (of the moment).
6. Favorite band/singer (of the moment).
7. Write anything you want.
8. Tag 3-5 bloggers.

I have always had romantic notions of handwriting. I like antiqued paper. I've tried to write with a feather (although not recently). I've played with calligraphy (again, not recently). And I love the idea of long, "meaty" letters, the kind that I imagine far-flung family members or friends wrote to each other before we had the Internet and satellites and phones. Imagine someone in Regency fashion at a small desk, lit by an almost-sunny window overlooking a cottage garden that gives way to rolling fields dotted with distant sheep, writing letters filled with gossip and commentary and descriptions of the weather.

(That's a rather Jane Austen image, and I don't normally think I'm all that into Austen. I don't make a habit of regularly reading her books; in fact, I don't think I've read any of them since college.)

I like to imagine receiving letters like these. But I'm really terrible at writing them. Busy, I guess. And it's easy to assume that everyone I might write to is equally busy and wouldn't be so thrilled to receive a half-dozen pages of assorted descriptions and random musings about the possible actions and motivations of other people they don't know.

But if no one writes these letters, what will we save in our empty shoe boxes, bundled with ribbon and dried flowers? If there's nothing to find, how will our great-grandchildren ever spend a rainy afternoon sneaking into the attic and finding a dusty box of faded letters and photographs?

There just isn't quite the same magic in a box of old hard drives.

Are you a letter-writer? Or is it better if you are the only one who is regularly expected to read your handwriting?

February 06, 2012

Catching up with the Bloggers' BOM

With a little sunshine here, I've finally gotten some photos of the Blogger's BOM blocks from the last three months!

Bloggers' BOM November
November's block, a "Split Star". Part of me wishes that I'd done a little deviating so that the patterned fabric in the third row from the top was vertical and matched the other instances of that fabric.  Not really sure I'll tear out the seams and make that happen, though.

Bloggers' BOM December style=
December's block, called "December Organization". I really like this one!

Bloggers' BOM January
And January's block, "Scrappy Sands of Time".  I spent a lot of time fussing with the fabric selection for this one, not just which ones to use, but which ones to repeat and then figuring out which order to put them in. When it's just strips like this, a lot of my fabrics for this project read as red. This block has felt a little more "modern" than I like, but I'm suddenly thinking that some really interesting things could be possible with the right colors in the stripes.

Here's hoping I don't fall so far behind again!

February 05, 2012

Two Garden Days

Last Friday, the sun came out. It's probably only a temporary thing. We usually get a patch of sunny, warm(ish) weather in February before returning to rain and gray for months. As one of the other mothers at the bus stop said, "I forget it's only February and, well, March, April and May will just suck."

But while it lasts, it's glorious.

Caitlyn, of course, thinks this means that the groundhog didn't see his shadow on Thursday and spring and summer will be arriving early. (I haven't gotten around to telling her he did.) She'd be happiest if we could arrange for 6 months of supremely excellent sledding weather followed by an abrupt transition to swimming weather. I like the transition seasons of spring and fall too much, though, to keep a winter home in Montana and a summer home in Barbados.


I spent Friday and Saturday in the garden. There are now fresh wood chips tucked under the sleeping blueberries and raspberries, spread between the vegetable beds, and - for the first time ever - layered deeply on the walkway beside the house. I may have gotten a little carried away there; the chips are so deep, there's a sort of weird "fluffy" feeling to walking on them. It was great fun, though, to not have to worry about running out of chips before I'd mulched everything the way I wanted to. I'd gotten a whole truck load (now that's a lot of wood chips!) in trade for a flowering currant which had out-grown the front yard. I love being able to give my too-big plants bigger homes instead of sending them out for composting. I think not doing so would be sort of like punishing children for out-growing their clothes.

I digress.

The garden looks remarkably good for early February. Despite our snow, there's little to no frost damage. Any other year, I'd be pulling winter-kill off of all sorts of things, and I suppose it's possible I still might. Right now, though, the beds under the cherry tree and apple tree are already (still?) green and leafy, and the yard isn't quite as stark as it might be.

I also took advantage of the sunshine to shift some plants around. Hopefully, the dormant things are still truly dormant. I moved a blueberry out of where it was being shaded by raspberries and have my fingers crossed that I didn't inadvertently kill the poor thing, especially since it's been my best blueberry producer. The raspberries, being raspberries, will probably expand into the blueberry's former turf. If it all goes well, I'll have multiple happy plants and more berries. That's a win for everyone.

February 02, 2012

Show and Tell

Sampler quilts haven't ever really been my thing. I tend to like a more coherent look, which is weird if you've ever seen my interior decor aesthetic. Our living room isn't matchy-matchy at all, although I will confess to a certain amount of post-purchase, pre-delivery angst regarding our new dining room table and whether it would at least not clash with the chairs we already had. (In case you're wondering, it's worked out fine.)

So, it's a little odd that I've been working on the Blogger's Block of the Month since last fall. Every month, a different block. Sure, I'm using a stable group of fabrics, but still, it's a sampler quilt. It's not going to be as coherent in the end as the quilts I've made in the past.

But what's odder is that I've gone and signed myself up for two more of these things. Craftsy announced a Block of the Month right after the first of the year. I've been somewhat intrigued by the Craftsy thing and a free class seemed like a good way to try their video-based, any-time access schtick. And then Jeni announced she'd be doing a Block of the Month based on half-square triangles. I don't have any good reason for deciding I'd do that, too, but I did. It looked like fun. Will that do?

Well, here we are at the beginning of February. I've just yesterday gotten caught up with the Blogger's BOM, since I'd shelved working on it in November and December (candy! bags!). I'll hopefully be able to share those blocks soon, just as soon as I can get decent photos. And I've not started the HST BOM at all, although I have A Fabric Plan. More on that to come.

But, I did get the Crafsty blocks done! This not only a sampler quilt (the class outline includes these slashed blocks, English paper piecing, log cabins, Dresden plates and more) but I'm aiming to also make it a stash quilt. All the fabric for the blocks will be coming out of my stash, and perhaps the sashing and binding, too.

asterisk block

January was about slashed blocks. They are simple enough to do - you don't have a lot of fussy measuring and cutting in these. And I do like how these came out. Especially this "wonky pound sign".

wonky pound sign block

But I can't imagine a whole quilt of these. Especially not the pound sign. It's easier to imagine a quilt made entirely of asterisk blocks, but I'm not sure I'm going to add one to my list of Quilty Inspiration. Which is very string/scrap centric right now.

What if I made the background of the asterisk blocks out of scrappy squares and then slashed them into asterisks?