Is it Time to Start Knitting Yet?

It’s been a long time since I posted anything about knitting…

Temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s, egregious humidity, dog days of summer…are a few reasons why knitting isn’t on my mind lately.

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been knitting!

I’ve tried a few projects, but they just didn’t work out for me. So I decided I’d work on a hat, at my leisure. I have a feeling it’s going to fit a very big-headed person, since I didn’t consult any pattern but cast just a whole bunch of stitches on to a circular needle. Tired of starting patterns, goofing up, and not knowing where or how I went wrong. There’s pretty much no good TV on at night, so we’ve been binge-watching Netflix shows.

Hat jennyskip
Sheenah and big-head hat

I came across a Netflix show that offers the best of both worlds for me: Slow TV National Knitting Night. It’s national for Norway, that is.  Wonder how that would pan out with an American TV producer:  hours and hours of knitting on TV?  Apparently, when the knitting episode originally aired in 2013, it was a very popular program in Norway. See more here from the Craftsy blog.

I started watching it, and every time I got ready to get up and do something else, a new, interesting scene came up. [I haven’t finished it yet. For some reason, Skip didn’t find it as compelling as I did! Maybe the same reason I don’t thrill to watching hours of woodworking shows and listening to the soundtrack of a saw blade.] The TV stars of knitting  got a project going (knitting a sweater for a tricked-out Harley), a contest going (beating the record for making a sweater from scratch; that is, from the sheep’s hide to the finished article), and all sorts of sidebar activities featuring historic knitting patterns, viewing the gorgeous seascapes the country offers, meeting enthusiastic knitters, touring a knitting museum. All with beautiful music and English subtitles. It’s a great show!

Quilt jennyskip
Pony boy lounging on the quilt I’m trying to sew a border onto

 

Meanwhile..

Knitting season jennyskip
More inspiration for the onset of knitting season

What’s on your needles lately?

 

 

 

Family History in a Quilt, c. 1980’s

When we had lots of family members descend for the Beach Weekend, we were dragging out bed linens from the closet to accommodate folks sleeping on the beds, couches and floors. I found this quilt my grandmother had made. Part of the crazy-quilt patches had come unsewn, so after everyone left, I took it to the sewing machine to mend and repair it as best I could.

I’d forgotten that my grandmother wrote on the back of it. She had a whole set of these little tubes of “embroidery paint”  similar to this modern-day product (click the link to see).  For a time period, she was very prolific with the embroidery paint, making pillow cases, sheets, all sorts of things. She had been in the habit of stamping a design or motif onto a piece of fabric, then embroidering (or drawing with the tube paint) over the stamped designs.

This is what she put on the back of this quilt:

Gran jenny skip.com
For John, made by Gran in 1985

Here, on the backing (which looks like it probably was an old sheet, so thin here it is almost transparent) you can see the underside of some heirloom quilt stitching, all hand-sewn. In the next photo, you can see the top side of the feather-stitching, probably done in a few strands of contrasting-color embroidery floss.

The quilt top itself is remarkable too.

Gran quilt jenny skip
double-knit patch quilt

It’s made of patches of double-knit fabric, which was an innovative fabric type for those of my grandmother’s era (she was born in 1906). See this article at Seamwork about the differences between the double knit fabrics available then vs. now.  John said, “I remember it [the quilt] was really scratchy, the sort of polyester material that leisure suits were made from.”  Hence, the soft cotton sheeting on the back of the quilt, which side would go next to the tender skin of a little 4 or 5 year-old great-grandchild.

I’d like to say that I matched the embroidery thread and repaired the blanket in the style and manner of the original–but for me to do that would involve quite a learning curve. I picked a decorative stitch on the sewing machine and put the pedal to the metal. For any curious posterity, it will show obvious mending by machine.

Meanwhile, how enlightening to have this information!

Creativity on Island Time

The Family Beach Weekend of 2016 has come and gone; the flurry of activity in planning, purchasing, and preparing has now evaporated into the vivid orange, pink and purple Gulf of Mexico sunsets…but we have great memories of our creative pursuits.

Photography: it’s not hard to get a beautiful shot in this place! Everything is incredibly photogenic.

Captiva sunset jennyskip.com
Captiva sunset

pool jennyskip
Creative posturing at the pool     (photo by Gabriel M)

hermit crab jennyskip.com
Tiny hermit crab
Sewing/quilting/knitting: We always try to scout out creative hubs when we travel around, and we happened upon a great little shop on Sanibel Island called Three Crafty Ladies. This unassuming little storefront opened into a treasure trove of art yarns (at very affordable prices!), a wide selection of fabric and notions, specialty patterns, artisan beads and jewelry-making supplies, paints, charcoal, pastels, brushes, lots of art supplies, shells, and all arranged in a very organized and gorgeous display. I picked some things for future projects.

Three Crafty Ladies fabric jennyskip.com
some fab fat quarters from Three Crafty Ladies

bag pattern jennyskip.com
San Clemente bag pattern designed by Stephanie Prescott of A Quilter’s Dream copyright 2008

Traffic Jam Jennyskip
“Late Night Traffic Jam” Row by Row Experience from Three Crafty Ladies
This little kit is a cute reminder of sea turtle nesting at the beaches this time of year.  A Row by Row Experience is something like a Shop Hop, where you can visit quilting shops in a circuit and get each shop’s kit, then assemble all of the kits into a quilt made up of each row. Or you can just make a wall hanging or table-top quilt from the single kit.

Three Crafty Ladies has many cute little designer kits, featuring beach and Florida wildlife motifs, all fabulous!

fabric plate jennyskip.com
signature fabric plate from Three Crafty Ladies
This little cotton sateen fabric plate, also from Row by Row Experience, can be incorporated into a quilting project or sewn onto the back of it.

Art: Creativity abounds in these beach towns (Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers). Everywhere we looked, we saw paintings, sculptures, all sorts of arts and crafts. The ceiling fan paddles were painted with tropical fish, and murals and wall art decorated the whole interior at Rosies’ Cafe. Every restroom had a whimsical seaside theme. Displays of shells and wildlife showed up in lobbies and hallways.

Blue Heaven jennyskip
painting of Blue Heaven in our hotel living room
Creative Cuisine: Even the humblest of eating places had great, creative food selections!

shrimp and grits
Shrimp and grits from Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grill at Captiva
We had our family dinner at the Doc Ford’s in Sanibel. Both had gourmet offerings, and the one at Captiva even had a book signing event going on, with the prolific author (and restaurant owner) who created the character Doc Ford, Randy Wayne White.

Improv: was a surprising highlight of the weekend — surprising because they pulled together a show on the last night without any planning prior to the trip! All the kids and grown-ups enjoyed this fun and hilarious stand-up show with plenty of audience input.

Improv Show jennyskip.com
Improv Show
Family members who came from far and wide have gone back to their homes.  Some are already starting the fall school semester or will start next week, while others have the whole month of August left of summer. We had a great, creative family beach weekend!

Oops, Mama Look! A Quilting Boo-boo

by jeny

After a noticeable interval of time since the quilt frame and Qnique quilting machine were set up, I decided to quit ruminating about whether I was ready to quilt a real quilt (as opposed to practice swatches) and I just loaded one up.

Probably I should have kept working on practice swatches a while longer…

longarm pucker jenny skip
sigh–right down the fairway

The top looked pretty decent, but when I took it off the frame, there was a big long pleat across the back. If the big pucker was near one of the edges, no problem to rip away and redo. But since this is in the middle, I’d have to rip and redo fully half of the whole quilt.

Oh, I found several other bloopers and blunders in the quilt top too. This quilt top has been lying around in plain sight, to the point where I was just a bit sick of looking at it. The pattern is Irish Chain, which I dearly love, especially in shades of green and white. I can see myself doing rather many more of these in the future. But this one? It’s going to UFO land for now. I can’t give it to anyone in the shape it’s in.

pucker jennyskip
Oops

Part of the problem here was the way I rolled it onto the take-up rail (see photo below),

take-up roll Qnique
take-up rail, in mode of being rolled from top, under

Because of the direction in which the quilt was rolled onto the take-up rail after it was quilted, the rolled quilt became so large in diameter that the ruler base–a flat, hard plastic panel that is attached to the bobbin case under the throat plate of the machine with magnets, bumped into the big roll and got shifted off its magnetic perch. Then the needle went down onto the hard plastic, which had shifted onto the top of the throat plate, and got stuck in the plastic, breaking off a chunk. And I couldn’t get the needle unstuck without trying lots of different tools and strategies, but of course, finally I did.

Now, if I turn the take-up roll the other way, the surface to be quilted will remain flat, but rolled over like I did it, an angle is created from the top of the rail to the ruler base on the throat plate. In this angle, the stitching got distorted.

The frame has a fourth rail, upon which a roll of batting can be installed; then you can just roll it upwards, pin it to the take-up rail leader, and then cut it off when you get to the last section of the quilt. I am not sure how the big pucker got there. Possibly because I used a roll of batting that was wrapped double on the roll. As the batting unrolled, one side was pinned to the left edge of the quilt, and the double wrap was unfolded and the other side was pinned to the right edge of the quilt. And since the batting was actually way wider than the quilt top, unintentional ripples got rolled up. Unless you climb under the frame and look up, you cannot easily see the underside, which was the territory of the big pucker all the way through the center. Next time, I think I will try to cut the backing and batting to more closely match the dimensions of the quilt top before installing the 3 layers on the frame.

Meanwhile, see that window back there? I was getting extremely hot quilting back in that room, even with the ceiling fan and AC on. In our locality, the summer glaring heat and heavy humidity usually abate somewhere around October. If I keep practicing, maybe by then, longarm quilting will become easier and I’ll be happier with the results!

top jennyskip
quilt top turned out mostly ok

Even though I looked at tutorials and pictures of many stitch patterns, I went with the tried and true simple meandering, stippling type stitching. Practicing on swatches is good to do, but I learned lots of lessons by practicing on a real quilt top that I don’t think I would have had drilled into my psyche as deep, with a throw-away swatch!

Display Cabinet Update #5

by Skip

Another display cabinet build update!  I’ll be so glad when this thing is done!

display cabinet jenny skip
major design changes

From our last update, there have been some major design changes. First, I decided to add lights to the underside of the cabinet top. I used a combination of LED light strips and LED puck lamps. Using a remote control, the LED light strip can be turned on and off, dimmed and can change colors. The pucks are controlled by a switch but I plan to add a remote control to these.

I then installed glass keepers on the inside perimeter of the cabinet upper rails and cut and installed a plastic lens from a fluorescent light fixture.

display cabinet lighting
lighting in the top of the cabinet

Second, I added foam weatherstripping to the top edge of the cabinet so when I added the top and fastened it down, it provided a light tight joint.  Third, I decided to add additional brass trim on the top rails and add corbels at each corner of the top. Fourth, I decided against adding glass to the cabinet sides. As I mentioned before, the design of this cabinet evolved during construction, bad idea usually.  Looking at the support rods for the glass shelves, it was going to be just too tight to try to install the glass panels with keepers in the existing 5/8 inch space.  Using 1/8 inch thick glass over the vertical span with no muttons was risky, in my mind. This change was also reinforced by the fact that I have many (emphasis on many) young rambunctious grandchildren.  Not sure the glass would survive a visit. So I punted and decided to go mission style and add vertical slats to each side of the cabinet, pinning them top and bottom with brass pegs. Maybe too much brass!?!

The cabinet has been moved to its new home where I will add the slats over the next few weeks. I’m going to wait to add the glass shelves and mirror after the grandchildren visit next week.

The Summer of Other Crafts

Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime…

We haven’t been blogging as much this summer, because we’ve gotten wrapped up in grandkids and other fun stuff.

So the whole genre of “crafting” has taken on some new meanings for us.

Nana (in need of a hearing aid): Did you say you want to play Minecrap?

Grandkids: Noooooooo, Minecraft!

Grandpa: Why do you like Minecraft?

Grandkids: It’s a fun game.

Grandpa: Oh, you’d like anything that had craft in it. How about poopoocraft?

Grandkids (chorus of giggles): Nooooooo!

And then, for the older grandkids, and their parents, who still have the kid mentality, there’s Pokemon Go, or as a daughter explained, “It’s the best of both worlds, a video game and an outdoor game!” Carl Jacobson made a pokeball on the lathe for a recent project, even though he said he had no idea what it was for, it was still a fun project! See his video-post here.

I took Art History from Jack Thursby, back in college. One thing I remember from his class is that studies show during times of war and uncertainty, art in those periods tends to be more into escapism and fantasy. The models’ beauty or resemblance to animals or mythology is exaggerated. When civilization is stable and people are doing well, art tends to be more realistic. Maybe we’re going through another wave of Romanticism vs Realism, as in the second half of the 19th Century. We’re hoping some of the turmoil all around us eases up in time. After the national election maybe? Doubt that.

doll head jenny skip
doll head

This is the head of a Joey Stivic doll. I once bid on a miscellaneous lot of dolls and doll accessories on eBay, and ended up with this and a few other creepy dolls: a Cabbage Patch Kid in a T-ball uniform with yarn hair and a plastic ball cap, a Napoleon Dynamite dancing figure, a couple of doll chairs. If you remember the 70’s sit-com All in the Family, Joey Stivic was the child of Meat-head and Gloria, and grandson of Archie Bunker and Edith. The doll was “anatomically correct” and had a handkerchief pinned on it as a diaper. The grandkids pulled its head off and every once in a while I find it kicking around the house. I had to hide the Cabbage Patch doll deep in a closet, because one of the grandkids couldn’t sleep in the playroom as long as it was in there.

Whether you prefer art and leisure activities to be on the Romantic end of the spectrum or the Realistic end, let us not be paralyzed by the uncertainties and chaos going around us.  Hoping our families and communities pull together and can anchor us, so we can feel inspired to continue to exercise our creativity.

Super E-Z Family Beach Bags

by jenny

I like summer sewing projects to be quick, functional, colorful, and fun. These bags are for our family beach weekend this summer. For the past few years we’ve scheduled a beach (or, near-beach, or similar-to-a-beach) weekend for the kids and grandkids to all get together and have a party and relax before school starts up again.

We get motel rooms close to each other, so that the kids can go back and forth to be with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and us. We let them pick all their own activities except for one big family dinner during the weekend.

So far, it’s been fun and relaxing: no big expectations, they can go to nearby attractions if they want or just lounge, go from pool to beach and back, get grocery-store food and eat in their rooms or go to the restaurants they choose.

This year, we wanted to give them some little mementos and practical things for the stay, so we made up some simple beach bags for each child, couple, or family unit, so they can tote stuff around: pool toys, towels, wet bathing suits, groceries, or whatever.

beach bags jennyskip
beach bags

I used up lots of stray bottom-weight fabrics from my fabric stash, as well as some wet-resistant fabrics that I’d bought to make diaper covers for some of the little grandkids (too little too late though, I think they’re all potty-trained now).  Anyway, they are cute fabrics and came in handy for this project, to make lining for the bags. I was going to keep it simple and not line them, but I tried it on one and liked it a lot.

beach bags jenny skip
cutting liner to match fabric

 

I had lots of remnants that could be used for straps: I bought a big roll of red, white and blue flag-motif (it looks like elastic but is not as stretchy as real elastic) at a close-out sale for about a buck.  And got some other kinds, as each bag uses quite a length of strapping, like about 3 yards each.

beach bag strap
remnant strapping

They’re not the coolest but they are, at least, a functional souvenir of the 2016 family beach weekend.

Here’s how we made them:

Display Cabinet Update

by skip

It has been several weeks since the last update on the display cabinet. Lots of other projects have taken me away from this project but I’m back at it again.

Since the last post, I have finished staining and top coating the cabinet framework, trying to give it an antique distressed look.  I planed the boards for the bottom shelf and cut notches on the corner so it would sit on the bottom framework of the cabinet.  I oversized the notches a little to allow the wood in the shelf to move.  This left some gaps which I plan on filling with black foam rubber to hide the gaps but allow for expansion.  When I had this tweaked and fitting in the cabinet, I then installed the leather veneered panels. Once these panels were in place, I set about cutting the brass rods to form a sort of molding around each panel. The addition of this metal was to complement the brass rods for the shelf supports.

The brass rods used for molding were set in place using thick CA glue.  I was going to try to miter the ends of the brass rods, but life is too short for this so I set the vertical rods first and then butted the ends of the horizontal rods into the vertical rods. To hold the bottom shelf in place, I used L-brackets underneath the shelf to connect the shelf to the bottom framework. Since I was too lazy to flip the cabinet on its side to set the L brackets in place, I used thick CA glue to set the brackets in place and when the glue had cured I could reach into the bottom cabinet cavity and secure the brackets with screws. Less frustrating than trying to stand on my head and hold the brackets with one hand while trying to navigate the screw in place!

display cabinet in progress
cabinet

I had originally thought of making the bottom shelf removable or on a hinge so that we could access the bottom cabinet cavity and use it for storage. But knowing our habits, I knew that whatever we stored down there we would never see again, so I scrapped that idea.

My wife would like to have a mirror back on the cabinet instead of wood, so I purchased some ¼ inch birch plywood to screw onto the back of the cabinet, to support the mirror back.

I called a local glass company to get some suggestions for the glass shelves. Looks like 3/8 inch thick glass will work for the shelves. I am going to install an extra set of brass bars next to each of the bars shown in the video just to provide a little extra strength for the shelf support.  I can also get the shelves with beveled and polished edges.  The mirror and glass sides will be cut to size.

The next step is to make the top of the cabinet, allowing for surface- mounted LED light fixtures.  I need to cut the molding for the side glass panels.  Hopefully by the next post, the cabinet will be complete!!

One more time—a fire ant pen

 

The last attempt resulted in a really unsatisfactory outcome, to say the least! This time, I took on a new approach.  Instead of coating the brass tubes of a pen kit with dead fire ants, I decided to mix the fire ants with Alumilite resin and then pour the mixture into a Slimline mold.  The nubs in the mold would leave an imprint on each of the pen blanks, which would provide a guide for drilling the 8mm holes required for the Slimline Pro brass tubes. Once the resin had cured, the casting was removed and the pen blanks separated and drilled. The blanks were equipped with Slimline Pro bushings and placed on the lathe pen mandrel.

I turned the blanks without incident, using a carbide finishing tool. I then sanded the turned blanks up through 500 grit.  After applying several coats of thick CA glue, the blanks were wet-sanded with micro mesh to 12000 grit, wiping the blank with a paper towel after each grit.  A plastic polish was used to finish up the blanks.

The final outcome was a very smooth, somewhat glossy surface. There were some white blushes on the surface which were probably due to areas in the casting where the fire ants may have separated from the mixture. Fire ants do float! (see our first fire ant pen blog) Also since the casting had fire ants mixed throughout, when the blanks were turned any ants near the surface would be sheared off, leaving a surface etched with small shavings of the ant bodies.  I hope my fire ant research friend can see more detail under the microscope!

In conclusion, this method provided a more conventional method of turning a pen blank. There were no blowouts and a relatively smooth and finish-friendly surface. I’m just not sure anyone can tell that there are about 1000 fire ants in there!

finished fire ant pen craftsbyjennyskip
finished pen

Three Free-market Buys that Burned

by jenny

It’s looking like both our main choices for president this fall are against TPP. I like the idea of free trade, but if the American workers get shafted, I don’t like that. I like to be able to go shopping and compare prices, and be able to snag a good-quality alternative item for a cheaper price. One bad thing about being cheap, though, is that you get what you pay for.

No thanks to advertising. They tell you all these wonderful things that make you want an item. So what happens if you buy, and then are not satisfied, do you just have to suck it up and say, “I should have been a more aware buyer”?

When I was editor of a local union newsletter, we always ran the “Buy American” filler ads and cartoons, which were very popular with our readership back in the 1980’s and 90’s. No wonder, we were a local of the great UAW.  But people today aren’t as loyal to the Buy American campaigns.

Here are 3 incidents in which I’ve yelled at myself for not being a more aware buyer:

(1)  The Rotadent fiasco. Husband did it. He bought a fancy electronic toothbrush at the dentist’s. It worked very well for a year or so, then all of a sudden it quit. Luckily it had a lifetime warranty, so  I just called up the maker in Arkansas, like the dentist said to do, and furnished them with the serial number and the purchase date. Instead of me mailing it in to get it fixed, they would send me a new one, because it was now made in China. So not in 3 weeks like they said, but in about 6 weeks I got a new one that looked pretty much the same as the old one. Except the new one had a different brush that hooks on to the handle with the flimsiest little catch, so that the brush head falls off about 20 times during the course of one 2-minute brushing session. It’s just a bad design.

defective toothbrush
brush head and its flimsy little catch
(2)  Fake coach purses. Yes, I succumbed to the Facebook advert that popped up right next to my news feed, and promised I could buy some genuine Coach purses from this company that sold them for cheap. I had been pining for a sweet, buttery leather Coach bag ever since I saw them at the City Creek mall when I went to Roots Tech  last year. However, I sure didn’t want to pay that exorbitant price! But when I sent in my order, I got an acknowledgement email that was written in very poor grammar. It had the Coach logo. Still, a big mistake. So this is what I ended up getting in my order, a far cry from the glamorous gear of my fondest dreams:

phony Coach
cheap phony Coach purses

Counterfeit Coach purse
Fugly Fake Coach purse
And when I went to a Counterfeit Coach web site to report the fraudulent transaction, guess what results I got? Nothing! No further communication at all.

(3)  Schwarzkopf hair dye, made in Germany. I was telling my friend about this, and she said “Black Head.” I said, “Pardon?” She said, “That’s what Schwarzkopf means in English, Black Head.” OK, I saw this pretty package in the grocery store, in the hair dye aisle. I’d never used the brand before, although I’ve been dying my hair for the last—oh well, never mind that little detail. And I’ve never had any problem with allergies so I’d stopped with the recommended allergy tests they tell you to do 48 hours prior. Bad idea! The day after I applied it, I had hundreds, thousands of little pimples on my back. A week later they were still there, and had gone all the way up my back and were partly under my right ear, and getting very itchy, as well. I finally went to the doctor and he said it was Keratosis Pilari, and wrote me a couple of prescriptions.

Our current president is all for TPP.  So if one of the two main candidates is elected, what changes can we expect when shopping, during the next 4 years? Wondering if any of the other “fringe” candidates for president are for or against free trade.

 

 

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts