Sunday, November 06, 2016

I've been practicing

It's been a little bit over a year since I started quilting with a machine.

I had wanted to try it for years and it was another one of those not-ever-getting-around-to-it things. I like making quilts. I like putting fabric together like a collage, to make new patterns out of existing. I think mostly I just really like color and pattern and how they interact.

But mostly I'd just paid attention to the putting-together bits and not to the part about combining it into a coherent whole. I very much admire the work of other machine quilters. I know how to hand quilt, and have done so, but it's slow. I don't have a lot of free time. I know many people get satisfaction out of slow handwork, and I do too (see also the piles of knitting). But I very much wanted some things to be FINISHED. I wanted them to be DONE.

I figured I had to start somewhere. So here's where I started. I had a couple of books and some instructions to get me going. I did a lot of these little practice sandwiches, messing with tension and the sewing machine settings. Later I moved onto bigger practice sandwiches.

I used to dislike practice when I was growing up. But I adore it now: when I practice I don't have to be perfect. I can mess up and say "oops" and it's OK and move on. Because it's practice.

I eventually actually completed an entire machine-quilted quilt. Yes I did.

It was also practice, just a more complete one. This is a cheater cloth I've had stashed away (for practicing on) for YEARS. I don't even want to admit how many. The quilt isn't all that good, but hey, I'm new at this, and it doesn't have to be anything but a pathway to getting better. (For you non-quilters, a cheater cloth is one that is pre-printed with a design. None of that is fabric sewn together except the outside yellow border and the green binding and the backing)

Also, it does indeed help to use a back that obscures the stitches.

It took a long time to work on a quilt top that was "nice," on which I specifically wanted to do a good job. Not so much practice as performance. The first top that I felt ready to quilt, and I wanted it to look good, was Circus Tents. I remember I had a lot of fun putting the top together. The dark blue is a good foil for bright colors, and I could go pretty wild on the tent stripes. I maybe have a thing for wild prints.

I decided to do some meandering stars in the blue parts, and then whatever I felt like in the stripes. If I don't enjoy doing the quilting, why bother to do it? So I'm going to do what I like.

I'm still not so great. But I'm better than where I started. Even better, I've found that I actually enjoy the quilting. And I REALLY am enjoying actually finishing up things that have been lurking around for so many years.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

California is a strange place

I spent my weekend trying to decide how to vote. In San Francisco, there are:
  • 17 state propositions
  • 1 regional proposition
  • 24 local propositions
That list, of course, doesn't even include candidates for office.

My ballot is 4 legal-size pages long, printed front and back. The voter guide from the state (which includes propositions, general info, overview of state bond debt, and 1 page of US Senate candidate statements) is 224 pages. I hear the local guide is 300 pages (but fortunately you can opt-out of having that dead tree mailed to you.)

If you're curious, here's all the state propositions, rendered in haiku. Because.

The legislative analyst(s?) who write the analysis of each of the propositions had a good time this year. They actually do a fairly good job of putting the legalese into a readable summary. For instance, I now know how adult jail sentencing works, and what exactly e-cigarettes are. Hooray for education.

Other things explained:
"How do Individuals Use Marijuana?"
"Adult films are also commonly called 'pornography'"

While I support being more involved in democracy, with 42 measures, if you spent only 10 minutes reading each one (the summary, the analysis, maybe glance through the statements for and against and the rebuttals), that still requires 7 hours. How many people will spend that much time? Let alone hunt down other voter guides and read other opinions.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy [Spring holiday of your celebration choice, or maybe none!]

Happy Easter! I see it's 2016 now.

This morning it struck me forcefully, as I sit here in ratty workout capris and a t-shirt, that I will never be like this woman. And now that I'm (yargh) past the ol' 40-year marker, I am OK with that. I'm even OK enough not to be too bitter about it or dislike her just because she's something the world thinks is wonderful and admires her and showers her in pink rose petals and yet I will never be her. That in itself is fairly awesome. Do you KNOW how many brain cycles I have wasted over the years obsessing over not being something else? Far, far too many.

I ended up on that blog following a random link trail that involved granola recipes. Even glamour requires granola.

Part of it is of course avoiding comparing your outtakes reel to the greatest hits record. No one wins at that. But the other part is that I've chosen to spend my time on other things, and I'm good with that. Not that sometimes I'm sad or wistful thinking about other possibilities. Not that I couldn't change. I'm a strong believer in change, at any age. I could go a full 180 and start pursuing a Glamorous Life, 24/7. But enh, while the brochure looks nice, I'm not sure about the destination. Quickie version: buy more pink peonies.

Oops. Not pink

It's been full-on Spring here for a couple months now, and we're now about to pass into Summer, Part I (the green one). We've moved into the Perfect California Day part of the year. This is the kind of weather where people visit and then they never leave. 64 degrees, brightly sunny, a small breeze, so you don't get too hot sitting in the sunshine, drinking your chardonnay. The rainy season just ended (Winter, Part I (the wet one)) so everything is green and all the flowers are busting out. Jasmine vines are in bloom, so all the air is sweetly scented. And not even scented of the city yet, as that last rainstorm hosed everything down.

And strawberry season has started.
Look at the size of those suckers

I'm so very tempted to put out the lawn chair and work on my sunburn. Sadly I need to work today, as well as pack for a business trip (to Dallas; just in case you were jealous, you can stop now). I also need a portable knitting project for that 4 hour plane flight.

My new dress! Not glamorous, but I like it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10,000 hours

One of those irons I mentioned:
Ceci n'est pas un iron

My latest quilt crush, Maria Shell, is an amazing artist and a kickass machine quilter. I found her blog last year and liked her worked so much I blog stalked all the way through her archives (I'm not supposed to admit this in public, probably. Don't worry, no current restraining orders on me).

For years I've been meaning to learn how to machine quilt, but I never have even tried.

I have far too many of those someday things in my life. One day a couple months ago the muslin, batting scraps, and ugly fabric came out and I made a bunch of practice squares. I have several books, a whole internet of blogs and videos, and a set of class notes from Maria, which she very kindly sent out to all her blogstalkers readers, on request, a few months ago.

So I have been practicing. I try for at least some practice every day, although I don't always make that. I had a good run there but I've been flaky the last couple days (hey, I do my physical therapy exercises just about every day, too. I'm busy. I still don't understand at ALL how parents have time to do all the things they do.)

Yeah, I'm not very good. The top left of the first picture is the first free-motion square I ever tried. But it's kind of morale-deflating to see all these perfect bloggers everywhere with their perfect lives churning out perfect quilts, so you get to see some of my ugly I'm-just-learning stuff. Everyone's gotta start somewhere.

Yeah, someone's got some nasty tension problems

I put the U in uncoordinated. Yes, I actually trip over my own feet sometimes. You might say, "oh, but you knit so beautifully," to which I reply: knitting requires only two basic stitches, and now that I've done a few hundred thousand of them, yeah, I'm pretty good. Knitting is repetitive and once you get the essential needle clutch and yarn tensioning down, it doesn't require all that much hand-eye coordination. But dammit, if I spend enough time, I'll get this down eventually. Or I will finally find out whether I want to do it or not and get it out of my system.

Someone still has trouble with the whole "follow the lines" thing, but the freehand isn't all that bad in places

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Too many irons, not enough fire

One of my friends has a t-shirt I covet, with "It was on fire when I got here" written on the front.


The days have been sliding by again lately and now Fall is almost over and WTH happened? I need to email at least 3 people, submit FSA receipts & expense reports, check up on a bank thing, exercise more, clean up the studio, catch up on work, figure out dinner, and an endless list of shoulds and ought to's and no energy to cope with them all right now. So, blog post for the avoidance win!

I haven't finished the big star quilt. There was a newer shinier thing, and friend announced her first baby coming. The Big Star is waiting, sadly, until I get back to it. Hopefully some time this year, but that's not looking good.

This is trying to become a baby quilt

This might be a baby sweater if I can figure out what to do now I've run out of yarn. Humorously, it is named the "5 hour baby sweater". I laugh and laugh.

I have knit or started knitting about 20 different mittens. After the success of the Smittens, which turned out the beautifully, the perfect size, I cannot seem to hit anything else. I've tried a half dozen yarns by now.  One set will MAYBE fit a 2-year old (they were so cute I went and finished them anyway). The next full mitten was slightly too small.

Note the failure to cover the fingers of the hand

Two months and two pair to go.  The latest swatch was an utter failure. I guess it's good that I started Christmas knitting in June?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Stars in stripes

But probably not the ones you are thinking of. This is what I got done this last weekend.

I've been working on a big quilting project for some time. It's a wedding quilt, a big green star, and I'm finally just about finished with the top. They requested a traditional design. I spent about 10 minutes fantasizing about a double wedding ring, then came to my senses. Even I have limits to the crazy.

I originally wanted a sawtooth border around the big star (sort of like this one). I've seen several historical quilts with that border and liked the look of the "floating" star.

I finished the middle, looked at my original design, looked at the amount of background fabric remaining, and then put the whole project aside while I figured out what to do. There wasn't enough background fabric left.

(An aside: I am terrifically bad at this behavior. I hit a place where I can't figure out what I want to go forward, and then put it away and have the regrettable tendency of not picking it back again for a long time (or ever). I wish I could find some way of working through these design blocks. I just get frustrated that it's not turning out like I wanted and despair that it ever will even look good. Then something new and shiny appears and I'm off to the next thing. Bah.

I would like to be the kind of person who actually FINISHES things. Also, when I have managed to work through the blockage (whether in the short or long term) I'm usually more pleased by the alternate design - the one I was forced to devise when constricted by supplies, or unhappiness with how things were turning out - than the original design. It's tied in with the stupid perfectionism that grows like stubborn blackberry vines in my head. I try to uproot it but it keeps coming back. /End aside.)

There was maybe enough of the background fabric to make a narrower border, but I didn't like a narrow border. I wanted something to balance out out the weight of the star. It's 86 inches square. It needs something hefty.

After scribbling a lot I thought maybe a diamond border but it reminded me too much of 80s dinner plate designs. Then more scribbling and maybe I could echo the big star with more stars in the border.

And that is how I got 24 stars and diamonds. I think I'm going to need more like 32 or 36 of them And yes, it's all green. Monochromatic quilts are hard. I've become a little tired of green.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Thank you all for your kind words about my succulent…interest (it's not a problem if it's just plants, right?)

I've been at knitting loose ends for a few months now, so besides a couple doilies (they're like popcorn, I swear), I haven't been feeling like much of anything. Now I've gone and found myself a new little obsession. The love monkey has dubbed these my smittens, because I can't seem to put them down.

These started as an extended swatch on some entirely different yarn. Well, more like a test mitten than a swatch, without the cuff. I needed to figure out what needle size to use and whether I liked the fabric and blah blah blah, which was about the amount of fun I was having knitting them. That is to say, not very much. It was probably a combination of me being out of practice with stranded knitting, and not really enjoying the colors, the yarn was a 2-ply and not particularly bouncy, and I never much enjoy swatches anyway.

Then I decided that no way would the test mitten fit a 9 year old and so I stopped the mitten swatch and picked out new colors for the 7-year-old instead. The 7-year-old likes gold. The 9-year-old is fond of kind of a turquoise-y blue. Except I think I was wrong and this is turning out plenty big to fit a 9-year-old.

I am very enamored of the dark, saturated blue against the gold (this picture is about the truest to color) . The gold has color prominence, by the way. I started out with the blue, but it contrasts so highly that some of the gold singletons were getting lost. The yarn is Madelinetosh super wash fingering (different bases, but it's close enough) and yes, I would have dyed my own except I didn't have anything on hand dyed up in those colors and I had store credit at a local yarn store and INSTANT GRATIFICATION. Also, I got to walk through the Castro on Pink Saturday for this yarn.

These are selbuvotter, and the pattern is from Norway (!) from a pattern booklet which was an impulse internet buy several years ago. #9 Barnevott, from Rauma LVS-5, Selbustrikk if you're interested. It came with an English translation, but honestly you don't really need much but the chart and a passing knowledge of mittens.