Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A quest for serving spoons

For about a million years now, the morning after bookclub is a breakfast cereal scramble as I try to find one-just-one clean soup spoon so A can have his breakfast.  This is all because every soup spoon that lives here & a few that commute get pressed into service as serving spoons. 

This means that in the week following bookclub I haunt every TJMaxx, every Tuesday Morning, every discount store of every stripe looking for new (more) serving spoons.  There are plenty.  Plenty, plenty.  & given that nothing in my kitchen matches anyhow, you would think it would be easy to pick some up & be done.  But it isn't; the whole problem is drawer space.  Serving spoons are a pain in the...drawers!  Unlike EVERYTHING else which stacks nicely serving spoons, even the matching set spoons, will not permit the drawer to close.  Their bowls are just big enough to catch the edge,.  this means finding a new home for serving spoons, which means I spend fruitless hours searching for serving spoons I will never bring home.

Which brought me to these.   My thinking is that if we use these & not the flatware in the drawer we will have enough sop spoons + one for serving & A's breakfast.  I will let you know how that goes.  Also they have their own built in storage thing & can get pushed to the back of the cabinet for all but the nine evenings a year I actually need them.

My thinking is if we don't need to eat & serve with the soup spoons, there will be one left in the drawer for morning.  I will let you now how it goes. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Not 18 months

Technically not 17 months.  Sadie came as a foster, failed & stayed.  Yesterday, after a week post protein-losing nephropathy semi-diagnosis (we elected not to do the diagnostic surgery) we put her to sleep.  She stopped eating on Tuesday, stopped drinking on Wednesday.  We could have lasted another few days, but they would have been awful days.    So we didn't. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Take my heart in Feb 2015

I realize that a swap deadline of February 28th would suggest pretty much anything but a heart block is timely, what with it being exactly two weeks (a fortnight!) past Saint Valentine's Day but I figured what the whatever.  After all, I have received a handful, maybe not even that many, of heart quilt block requests for February over the years.  So few in fact that they might all be from the same person (I keep a list & when I get a request I put it on the list, when I get a second request, I put a tic mark, etc.  Maybe I need a better system, but for a long time this was the easiest way to look at all kinds of different ideas on the same plane). 

That's right I have been getting "let's make a heart block"-type requests for a while.  & ignoring them.  Then for whatever reason hearts just clicked & over the past six months I have gotten four more requests for a heart block (trust me, that's a lot).  So without further ado the February block for the Facebook Quilt Block Swap group CAN BE a greater than or equal to 4.5" unfinished/4" finished heart block of your choosing.  Or it can be a double set of 12.5" unfinished/12 finished 9-patches or it can be as many sets of different heart blocks & two, exactly two sets of 9-patches.  Because that clears it up, right?

Let me back up ever so slightly.  For February 2015 you CAN make a heart block, either by piecing it or appliqueing or embroidery or whatever OR  & this is a big OR...OR you can make something much much simpler, but you have to make more of them...

I wanted to offer a block that would also work for a beginner (or even someone with less time), along the same theme but I wanted to make the exchange fair.  I realize that a set of blocks that takes a week-end & a dozen FQs to make is just not the same as a block that takes two fabrics & two hours so this is what I came up with:

If you do not have the time or skills or motivation to make a set of the more advanced heart blocks (below) you have the option of making a set of TEN 9-patches (well, eleven if you keep one for yourself). 

Your nine patches MUST be three x three of 4.5" squares.  You should use two & only two different fabrics BOTH of which must be low volume & one of which should (but not must) have a heart theme- in the event you cannot locate a heart theme any other "romance-y" type print (flowers for example) would be acceptable.  Frankly even two read-as-solids or even actual solids would be fine.  .  Everyone can send TEN & ONLY TEN of these 9-patches (you can send as many sets of the more complex blocks as you like).  By low volume I mean colors that are "soft " i.e. pastels or creams or whites & patterns with a minimum of contrast (for example I own & LOVE a fabric with pale pink & coral poppies on a white background BUT they are outlined with a thick black line therefore, despite a majority of soft colors, this would NOT qualify as a low volume).  The example above might look dark, I assure you it is not; the darker tan color is way lighter than the latte I was drinking when I started this blog post Sunday morning.  & I don't mean the day before yesterday.

For your ten 9-patches you will get either ten 9-patches back OR you will get one more complex heart block for two 9-patches (so you might get 10 9-patches OR eight 9-patches & one pieced heart block OR six 9-patches & two pieced heart blocks etc. all the way to the very unlikely possibility you will get five pieced heart blocks & no 9-patches).  The converse of this is also true:  if you send five pieced heart blocks you might get back five pieced heart blocks & that is it OR you might get ten 9-patches (which I dearly hope doesn't happen but that is a bit out of my control).

I don't want to reinvent the wheel so I am directing you to this link for the basic 9-patch instructions.  Our nine-patch unit is 4.5", so you would need 4.5" squares (or strips if you were strip piecing) & then you can pretty much follow the directions here.  You will end up with a 12.5" unfinished/12" finished 9-patch.  Big, simple & fading to the background.


Now for the heart blocks.  Again, you can make ANY HEART BLOCKS YOU WISH in ANY TECHNIQUE.  For the hearts, you do not need to limit yourself to low-volume fabrics, but please do try to stay in the range of pink-red-purple-blue-black-gray for your darker/brighter shades.  Your five blocks should be at least 4.5" x 4.5" unfinished BUT they do not need to be any particular size & they can even be rectangle.  The end result will be a hodgepodge of sizes & shapes (at least one of the examples I am giving is a rectangular block) that can be used for a sampler.  & yes, it is possible you might make a rather large, many pieced heart (perhaps like this one), or a foundation pieced heart (like the Feb 2013 or even the Feb 2012 from Block Lotto)  or even something less complex like these free patterns from Simplicity.  Or maybe something here will make YOUR heart go pitter-pat.  Like I said, try to limit your not-low-volume fabrics to the Valentine-y color range (pink, red, purple, blue, black & gray) & try to use at least three fabrics; try but don't make yourself nuts.

As always, we swap in sets of five (so make six so you can keep one for yourself).  If you choose to make only the 9-patches please make to sets & limit yourself to just two sets (for a total of ten blocks).  For the heart block send as many sets as you like, you can also send two sets of 9-patches if you wish, but you don't have to.

Let me restate that so it is clear:  for the low volume fabrics there are no color restrictions (a pastel green or yellow would be perfectly acceptable) but for the darker louder colors the preferred palette is  limited.  & only not 9-patches can have anything outside of low volume; all the 9-patches should be low volume fabrics only. 


The heart block I made was about as easy as it gets.  I began with a log cabin center:  two 2.5" squares, one pink & one dark gray & added a 2.5" strip of the pink to make the heart.


& if you are wondering about that strip of fur at the bottom of the frame, someone I love thought I was taking a picture of her.

I added a strip to the side, decided it looked too wide & cut it down to 2".  I then took two 7.5" squares & cut them corner to corner to put the whole thing on-point.

& that black edge in the lower right corner?  They got tired while I was arranging & forgot they were supposed to be posing.  Yes, they sleep like that all the time.  One of them has separation anxiety.  Guess which one.

This brought me to three fabrics.  Also, notice the busy fabric is a combo of low volume (pink, white pale gray, pale brown) & the preferred dark colors (red, black, dark gray) & just the smallest amount of dark brown.  The dark brown is not great BUT it was next-to-impossible to find fun (i.e. with hearts & dogs) fabrics w/out some "other" colors which is why I used the word "preferred" when I said red, pink, blue, purple gray & black. 


But you don't have to make this heart, you can make my heart, there really are tons of blocks out there.

Last but not least the bullet points
  • You can send exactly ten 9-patches or as many sets of five hearts as you desire or exactly ten 9-patches & as many sets of five hearts as you desire
  • The 9-patches are low-volume only, two fabrics only & ideally one will have a romantic print.  These 12.5" unfinished/12" finished blocks should fade to the background
  • The heart blocks can be square or rectangle or whatever just at least 4.5" on each side.  They can be low volume or darker/brighter colors (try to stay in the pink-red-purple-blue-black-gray if you can)
  • Blocks are due in the last Saturday in February 28, 2015.  Please remember to review the guidelines about what you need to do such as send (an envelope to return your blocks in), the address is in the Facebook Quilt Block Swap group file "mailing label", etc.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Not quilting but knitting: the nighttime dog walker's hat

I know, I should be getting the FEB, MAR & JUN 2015 Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group blocks up but I need a bit of a break.  Also, it helps if I change gears ever so slightly before I do the final cut-&-sew test on directions, so that is what I will be doing this afternoon.  In the meantime, though, this is what I did last month.

First I found this absolutely ridiculous yarn.  There is a reflective band wrapped  in with the acrylic fibers that make the yarn & I very quickly got hooked.  It is not an elegant yarn, it does not feel especially good to work with & it is over priced for what it is (especially considering how much of it is pulled, frayed & knotted:  buyer beware), BUT I love it.  I brought these instead of bottles of wine to holiday parties, I sent two to my Reddit gift-victim (one of them the traffic cone at the right, the other something nicer), at cookie swap when my shortbread cookies vaporized (really, into dust) I made up for it with a hat.  These hats have gone global.

But as much fun as this this yarn is to look at, it is, as I said, not all that comfy.  I decided to do a double yarn thing, but I needed to add in a yarn that felt good, but had the same care requirements, so I went back to the Red Heart well & wow do they have some retina burning color combos in their super saver line!

Thus these hats were born.  With both yarn, cast on 60 stitches.  Put a stitch marker every 12 stitches & two markers where you join the ends (yep, it is all in the round.  I used a circular 16" size 6 US needle you might want to go longer.  I have small strong hands & working cramped is not a problem for me.
ribbing-no flash
Join the two ends of the cast-on row on circular needles with the first stitch (careful not to twist, etc.).  Start immediately on the rib (there is NO all-knit anchor row) K2, P2 all the way around.  I went for a deep ribbing so it could be folded for a cushier edge so mine were 2.5"-3" or more, but make what you like.

ribbing- with flash
When the ribbing it what you want it to be, you can change to a 7 US or 8 US (the 7 transitions ever-so-little, the 8 makes it poofier).  You will need to add a stitch in each of the sets of 10.  I did this by knitting as usual in the first P of the first P2 of each set of 10, & then before removing from the needle I knit to the back loop of the same stitch.  This made a hole & dimple free rib to body line, which is the holy grail of increasing while working with bulky or double yarns. 

Knit in the round long as you like.  I went about 4".  Then you need to decide, do you want a pointy hat, or a flatish top.  The less frequently you decrease, the longer & pointier your hat will be.  Begin by knitting 10 stitches (all but the last 2 stitches in each section) knit those last 2 together.  You can do this every row (I prefer this; it makes a flat op hat like the one here) or you can knit a complete row or two in between (which makes the traffic cone above). 

I did this until I had 6 stitches left & then I kitchener stitched them together.

As quick as this hat is & it really is- I can make one of these in 4 hours or less -this is not a beginner project.  I would suggest people already have some circular knitting under their belts & maybe play a bit with the knitting two yarns at the same time thing.  Also, the reflective yarn can be yuck-yuck-yucky to work with.  The reflective fiber snaps if it is pulled too much & both the Red Heart yarns have ZERO stretch.  That being said, I have never had a knit thing be so widely well received.