There’s something about travel that changes your perspective so much. When you get back from a trip, you can see more clearly things you’ve done that are unproductive. You may have seen a new way to deal with a problem during your travels.
Especially when it comes to every day surroundings and routines, you can see what doesn’t work and what didn’t have a desired outcome. You can see why you need to get away and look at a problem with that fresh perspective.
A few cases in point:
When I go on a trip, I usually carry cosmetics and stuff in a blue plastic Caboodles box (it looks like a tackle box or a tool box). Finally, that thing split down the back and once it was clamped shut, it was so hard to un-shut that I ripped all the skin off a knuckle trying to pry it open. Now that I don’t have the plastic box, I came up with a couple of alternative carrying cases to take on trips, and realized what a clunky liability that plastic case had been.
We have more that just a washer and dryer in our laundry room, we also have a rug shampooer, a big bulky canister vacuum cleaner, several mops, brooms, etc., and a collection of seasonal wreaths to hang on the front door. This room is not big enough to hold all that stuff plus ourselves when we need to wash clothes. Skip realized (while I was gone) that we have a hall closet near the front door that we never consider using, because it is so crammed full of – I don’t even know what’s in there. Possibly old camping equipment from the seventies, hats that no one wears, who knows? If we get rid of that stuff we haven’t seen in a decade or more, we would have more room for the useful stuff!
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to do more sketching, and more art work in general. I want to get into Inkscape, a free vector drawing program, so we can use it to make projects in other media, like wood, plastic, laser engraving, and 3D printing. Does anyone have any experience in Inkscape, who can offer some insight?
Meanwhile, I’m acclimating back to the local humidity and heat. Summertime all year round!
Looks like my trip to Philadelphia is coming to an end 😶. Glad to get home but will miss the loving family members on this side of the country!
I got to visit my cousin Ben at the Franklin Institute
I found some great unique sewing paraphernalia at the Quilt Academy in Bensalem. We dropped in while they were having a class going on. What a friendly and fun group!
I’m sort of new to the whole Row by Row Experience thing but I love the idea, it’s shop-hopping to several quilt shops that have a custom pattern for a row, then adding all the rows together. The idea is to get 8 rows to complete a quilt. Not everyone will go to the same shops, so not all the finished quilts will look exactly the same. The new one for 2017 starts in June. Therefore, I’ve been going around collecting some of the patterns from previous years. Not sure how I will put these older rows together…or if I will just make a one-row project so as not to blend the different themes. Future project….
I got to sample a bunch of the local cuisine.
You know they are called “Philly Cheese Steaks” elsewhere in the world, but just “Cheese Steaks” when you’re here.
I got some updates to my knowledge of the Marvel Universe watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in a theater with reclining plushy seats. I could write a post about all the subliminal gags and messages in that movie…
Best of all, I got to hang out with family in the amazing historical city of brotherly love!
After a fun visit to North Carolina, I’m convinced that it is the friendliest location of all, for artisans and makers of all creative crafts.
First off, I had to make a stop at the Cary Quilting Company. The shop was busy with pending classes and folks stopping in to visit and talk with the proprietors. I didn’t do any prep work before I darkened their door, to look for particular fabrics or items, but just tried to find interesting things that mightn’t be found any where else. As so many little quilt and sewing shops seem to fall prey to underpatronage in favor of cheaper, more ubiquitous big box outlets, I want to do my part to keep them in business, if I can. Within reason, that is.
Clock wise from back left: a packet of patriotic Moda Red, White and Free cotton, the Big Book of Scrappy Quilts by Martingale, the Cary Quilting Company Block 3 fabric and pattern for the 2016 Quilt! Carolina Carousel Quilt, I Love North Carolina Pillow Pattern , the 2016 Row by Row Cary Quilting Company pattern and top fabric for “Home in the Oaks,” and a 2017 Plate: “Stitch Local.”
The pillow pattern is a pretty fun idea. I’ve never really seen anyone get excited about an odd-shaped pillow that represents one of the United States. I live in Florida, and I’ve never seen anyone in FL get excited about a state-shaped pillow. But in NORTH CAROLINA, the residents react with utter delight! “Oh, cool!” they say when they see it. Like they’ve always wanted a very odd-shaped, off-kilter, jaggedy, state-shaped pillow and they just now realize it! Or a North-Carolina-shaped mobile hanging from their ceilings, or Christmas ornament, or doorknob hanger! I mean, they get almost as excited about a North Carolina-shaped pillow as we do about a plushy Florida gator!
Meanwhile, we stayed in Carrboro, a creative little town that is an extension of Chapel Hill, the home of UNC. Carrboro is overflowing with charming little crafts stores and hippie hangouts. One shop, WomanCraft Gifts, had loads of handmade things from local artists, including jewelry, wooden pens that had been turned on a lathe, wood segmented bowls and boxes, paintings, ceramics, quilts, dolls, clothing, all sorts of things from the practical to the beautiful.
I found this apron with an attached tea towel sewn into the waistband, and I had to get it! Why? Because the tea towel reminded me of when my grandmother taught me how to do Swedish Weaving when I was little, on huck cloth like this aqua-colored piece here. This apron is of a very soft fabric. And what a great pattern.
Another creative item on sale in WomanCraft was the Chapel Hill Toffee, which is made by a local family business. Ah, yeah! It definitely tastes as good as it looks on the box top here:
We took a stroll through the Historic Carr Mill Mall, which has several gift shops, a perfume shop, high-end clothing and shoes, and a savory fabric shop: Mulberry Silks.
We picked up some sumptuous food items from the friendly market, which was having a couple of taster specials going on. Patrons who come into the store with their little kids in tow are encouraged to shop seriously:
We picked up some BBQ from the Cross Ties restaurant, which consisted of a bar straddling two train cars.
Our order included “a plethora of sauces,” including the famous Carolina BBQ sauce that is vinegar with some hot pepper flakes. When I saw the vinegar and flakes in the little plastic cup, I thought, “What are we supposed to do with this?” but when applied to the smoked pulled pork, it tasted so right!
Hey, remember a couple of posts back, when we looked at taking non-credit college courses online? [Creativity and Connections] I took a Coursera class taught by some instructors at the University of Florida, called Healing With the Arts.
The class took us through a module a week, covering visual arts, music, dance, creative writing, drama, and we breezed through many interesting forms of expression. Although my life was hectic during the time, I’m now on the final week of the class, and I found myself needing to submit a final project, so here I am.
At one guided imagery session, the instructor encouraged us to become acquainted with our own “Spirit Animal.” [Being a Harry Potter fan, I usually substitute “Patronus” whenever the phrase Spirit Animal is used.] During the actual session, one of my cats, Ponyboy, burst into the room and insisted on cuddling with me at the exact point in the guided imagery when I was supposed to come to a clearing in the forest and meet my Spirit Animal. So, he became, in actuality as well as in imagination, my Spirit Animal.
This video goes through the process I used to create a bracelet that has a drawing I made of Ponyboy, laser engraved on it. As shown in the video, you could make a drawing, reduce it or enlarge it, or you could use a photograph, or you could laser engrave a .pdf you found on the Internet. A client could change up the decoration on the bracelet, using colored yarn, different beads, or any number of variations. If the laser printer was used in a hospital setting, it would need to have some ventilation.
Altogether a very interesting class! I will keep going back to the journal I created for the class, and try to keep it going to stimulate creative projects that have other good, healing results!
We’ve each been sucked in to pursuits other than Crafting in the 21st Century recently: Skip has been moving wood into a new woodshed and pondering a new series of lectures he wants to do involving some of the many antique tools languishing about the place. Check out the trailer:
I’ve been consumed by my OTHER hobby, family history.
My mom passed away a few years ago, and although I’ve looked through the several boxes of her family history files here and there, it was just a few weeks ago that I felt that I should really get into it and do something with all the data that she collected during her lifetime.
In the boxes, I found letters to and from people who gave her pedigree information, notes from Historical Society meetings, receipts from Vital Records bureaux, from back to the days when first-class postage was 2 cents. She would go to a county courthouse or a library, and copy passages from books in long-hand, because there wasn’t a photocopy machine back then. [And her handwriting wasn’t the easiest to decipher, but who, besides me, can decipher it?]
She compiled a book about one of the ancestors, born in 1740, and now I have her notes and correspondence from that. Sometimes I’ve looked up things on websites, and been ecstatic at the new data I found about one of the ancestors, only to go to her files and discover that she already had that piece of information, for which she actually paid money to a record researcher, but somehow the information never got recorded on a chart or got lost.
She wrote out reams of family group sheets and pedigree charts. At the bottom of each one is a list of her sources. I can now look up some of the books she found, in Google, and many have been digitized and are available online for free. Awesome; if I can’t read her writing, I can sometimes look up the source and the page number, and voilá, it comes up online, like magic. I just copy and paste the URL of the source document on my online pedigree chart, and it is there for another cousin to search up and collaborate with.
Probably the site I love to work in most, is Familysearch.org. I love the Sourcelinker, the Search Records functions, the Wiki. And the site is free. How in the world can so much information be available to the public for free? I know, because I served as a volunteer support person for the site for 3 years. And, in that role, I became aware of the fact that the site carries a global tree, seeing as how we are all part of one big huge family, and anyone can supplant your data with their data, and you can’t cry foul about the outcome. So I’ve been transferring lots of the information I have into some of the other sites that have individual trees, which can’t be changed by anyone but the owner. Those sites are excellent, too. Family history has become such a popular hobby, and more records are being added all the time to help with the ongoing research.
It’s been great to find that some of my female progenitors also sewed, quilted, and crafted during their time in mortality.
This female progenitor grew up in New Brunswick, the daughter of a Canadian and a Scottish immigrant. She crossed the border to work at a textile mill in Maine, where she met her future husband.
These sisters came to the US with their family in 1912. They came equipped with phenomenal knitting skills!
I have the remnants of a crazy quilt made by this great-grandmother, in beautiful mauves and beiges and indigo fabrics.
Family history: another “craft” using 21st Century Technology to document and delve into the past! Amazing, isn’t it, how clear and beautiful are these photographs that have survived many decades!
Google “Mermaid Blanket” and, would you believe, you’ll get way over nine million results!
Mermaid blankets were one of the “it” gifts for Christmas this past year, for a girl toddler, teen or tween relative. Some were knitted, crocheted, and sewn from fabric. I didn’t jump onto the trend wagon, but I saw on Social Media that many big and little girls were posing with their fishtail blankies for the camera.
I found a couple of remnants that might go together as a cute mermaid blanket. What do you think?
This size blanket is for a tiny four-year old. The blanket sheath is a polyester teal metallic mermaid fleece, 57 inches wide, remnant of .972 yard. The tail fin is from a remnant that I’ve had in the stash for eons, no idea where it came from. It’s a stiff, satiny, iridescent fabric that looks pink from one direction and purple from another. The saran-wrap looking flap on both sides of the tail is a Bumi Pearlized sheer lilac remnant just less than a yard in length.
No pattern was used in the creation of this project. I just folded the pink/purple fabric, double, in half and sketched a tail fin shape on one side so that the fold was down the center of the fish tail, then cut it out. Thus, the tail was symmetrical on both sides. Then I unfolded it and seamed it together on all sides except for the opening at the top. Then I turned it inside out and pressed it, so that the edges carried that fishy curve.
It would have been perfect if the pearlized fabric was the same size, so I could have just duplicated it and made a casing for the purple satin. But the pearlized remnant was smaller than the finished tail. So I played with the idea of attaching the pearly fabric as a ruched flap on either side of the tail, so it would flutter and swish like a real fish’s tail swerving around in water. Maybe a hair-brained notion, but there it is.
After ruching the sheet of pearl in several places (centers, sides, and diagonally at corners), I cut a slit in the top fold, and since the slit ended up being a few inches longer than the tail side of the blanket, I sewed a basting stitch around the edges of the slit and drew it together, pulling on the basting thread, until it matched the size of the satin tail. Then I sewed the pearl fabric on to the satin tail at the top. Turning the blanket fabric inside out, and matching it up to the opening of the tail, with right sides of blanket and tail together (a fabric sandwich of blanket, wrong side up, on top; pearl right side up, in the center; and satin, right side up, on the bottom) sewed tail to blanket in a 5/8″ seam, making sure the pearl material was lying flat at the seam line inside.
Continuing to play around, I hemmed the top edge with a rounded Short Serpentine stitch:
It’s still a little chilly at night. This can be a toddler blanket or a grown-up foot warmer. Or maybe the kids can use it as a costume for Let’s Pretend, maybe a little kid version of Cosplay.
While technically not a quilt, it is a blanket that is pieced together so it’s pretty close…happy #NationalQuiltingDay and hope to see how others celebrated the day as well!
Recently my wife “suggested” that it might be time to upgrade our countertops from 25 year old grey Formica to granite.
old Formica countertops
So off to the big box store to look at granite samples. Way too many choices!! But we found a sample we liked so we pulled out the check book and started what turned out to be a very efficient process, unlike any I have ever experienced. Soon after selecting the sample, someone showed up to develop a template for cutting the granite. A week or so later we got an email inviting us to go to Tallahassee to inspect our granite slabs. In lieu of making the trip we asked for photos and got a gallery of shots showing us what our slabs looked like. Once we approved the slabs, we soon got a call to schedule the installation. Two very experienced installers showed up, removed the old countertops in a manner so as to not damage them, so they could be recycled to a friend’s home needing new countertops, and installed our new countertops and cleaned up before leaving for home. The next day a plumber showed up to reinstall the kitchen sink.
This is when I got the bright idea to “upgrade” the kitchen cabinets by adding some wood trim to the cabinet doors. The cabinets, despite their age, are in great shape.
I picked out some red oak from the shop and milled out a piece about 3/16 inches thick, 1 ½ inches wide and long enough to fit on a cabinet door. I then picked out a couple stains which I thought might match some colors in the new countertops and passed this by my wife.
She picked the golden oak stain as applied to the red oak, two applications followed by a clear coat. After the selection of the stain, I showed my wife a selection of cabinet handles in the Lee Valley catalog. A copper and bronze handle seemed to be the best selection for working with the wood, countertops and existing cabinet finish. The wood strips would be applied to the opening edge of each cabinet door as an accent to the cabinets linking them to the colors in the granite.
After the handles arrived it was time to get to the wood working. Pieces of red oak were cut and milled to size, sanded and finished with stain. The plan was to fasten the handles to the wood strips and then fasten the wood strips to the doors. Of course the screws which came with the handles were too long, made for ¾ inch thick doors and not 3/16 inch thick trim. Off to Ace Hardware, where I found 8x32x1/2 inch machine screws to fasten the handles. Since the wood strips were to be fastened to the cabinet doors, the screw heads had to be recessed in the wood trim. I used a Kreg cabinet jig to drill the mounting holes in the wood trim for the handles. Using a Forstner bit set to drill to a depth approximately equal to the screw head thickness, I lined up the mounting holes with the Forstner bit and drilled a countersink for the screw heads.
After mounting all the handles, it was time to start applying these to the doors. I marked and drilled two holes on each door to allow screws to be inserted from the back of the door into the wood trim. I then applied thick CA glue to the back of the trim, sprayed the door with accelerator and applied the wood with clamps. When the glue had set, I drove screws from the back side of the door to further secure the wood trim.
We were both happy with the outcome. Now, on to the kitchen drawers, wood trim on the top edge of the drawer fronts with a matching bronze/copper knob.
One of the things I’ve noticed about crafting blogs and You-tube channels is that creative output sometimes comes with a price.
Our creative efforts (and sometimes the efforts seem monumental) don’t always get rewarded with multiple views, likes, and comments. Some of our You-tube videos are “monetized,” that is, they generate a little payment of a fraction of a cent whenever they get subscribers and views beyond a set amount. It’s exciting to go to the analytics page and see if our projects are popular, to see if some of our fellow creatives subscribe to our sites, or give us comments we want to respond to. And BTW I don’t know what happens to that fraction of a cent, do you? I’ve never, to my knowledge, gotten a check or deposit from Youtube, although there’s a couple dollars’ worth of views on the page once in a while.
We like being creative and doing projects for the fun of it. When it gets to be a competition, that can introduce stress. And suddenly I don’t like doing stuff like that as much.
Having recently “retired” from a volunteer job I was doing for the past three years, I wanted to find something new to do. Did I want to go back to school and pay thousands of dollars to get another degree? No. Did I want to get a part-time job? No. I could just do creative stuff with more frequency and intensity. Sounds good in theory, But I would need to self-motivate,
I was Internet-surfing and found some free university classes, which can be accessed from the Coursera ap or web site. I signed up for Healing with the Arts and Personality Types at Work. So far, they’ve been rather transformative!
Note that the courses are free but unless you pay the certificate fee, you may not be able to access every section of them, like the quizzes and the peer review. What’s not to like about that? No quiz and no peers judging or criticizing your work, YAY! However, I may heed Skip’s point of view that if you feel the instructor is doing a great job and you are benefitting from their time and experience, you probably ought to go ahead and pay the fee.
I’ve done some journaling on my own, and some with prompts from Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World, one of her great self-help books for developing creativity. I like looking within to boost creativity, and also looking at other blogs and videos for inspiration.
In these online classes, I guess you could hide from the teacher and your fellow students, but you could project your true persona, too. You get to be creative and interact with like-minded and different-minded sympathetic people, and no one is grading you or goading you. No one is competing with you. No one is trying to change your mind about something you feel strongly about or maybe don’t even care about. It’s for fun. It heals your psyche. You won’t get fired if you create something ugly. You don’t have to hawk your wares. You won’t get your idea for a great project, that got you 10 You-tube views, hijacked by another You-tube personality who then gets a million and a half views. Your friends with their fine arts degrees won’t look at your picture and say, “That’s very…interesting...”
Sometimes you need to give that creativity a little jump start!
It’s the day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve) and we decided to make a crafty Christmas present we’ve been wanting to make ever since Thanksgiving, when some of our grown children showed us how to do it and asked for dad’s help.
Natural-edge log tea-light candle holders were easy, earthy, and a breeze to make. We have a big pile of firewood out back, which probably won’t get burned any time soon since it’s been in the 70’s and 80’s this and the past few Decembers. And we have a pile of Yankee tea-light candles with delicious-sounding names like Christmas Thyme, Gingerbread Maple, and Christmas Cookie. I bought a bunch of them online for a friend’s son’s school band fundraiser, but you can also get a bag of tea-lights from the dollar rack at CVS pharmacy (although they may not smell as good!)
Skip explains all the steps we took to make a couple of these things, in the You-tube video:
They look good as single candle holders, completely natural with no embellishments, or grouped together and tied with a ribbon or raffia.
Thanks for all the interest and love this past year. We wish you a very happy holiday the next few weeks, and hope for the best for each of you in the coming new year.
In a previous post, I referred to the multitude of quilt tops I had ready for quilting.
Since I got the Qnique and Grace Frame, I may have quilted about 5 or 10 items. I hoped to have acquired expert status with this set up by now, but it hasn’t been like riding a bicycle. The brain and muscle memories haven’t automatically renewed every time I tried a new project. Each project has its own set of peculiarities!
Since most of the pile (seven of them) consisted of table runners, I thought maybe I could pin several of them up to the Grace Frame, and quilt them all at the same time, and see how it went.
This frame is supposed to accommodate fabric to make a king-size quilt. I was able to comfortably fit 5 of the 7 table runners across the width, with a little space in between each. The backing is pinned (with the right side facing down) onto the first (top, furthest back) leader cloth, and to the second (center) leader cloth. I have marked on each leader cloth a mid-point. Normally I would fold the fabric of the top, bottom, and batting in half and pin that half-way point to the mid-point on the corresponding leader cloths. To match up the mid-points on all these separate fronts and backs of the table runners, I just counted the marks on the top leader cloths and lined them up with the marks on the bottom leader cloths. I realized later, that not all of the table runners were the exact same length, so that was one major problem with this set up!
A while back I bought 2 big rolls of batting on sale, anticipating that I would be making a whole bunch of quilts. I use one of them most of the time, for the smaller baby quilts and lap quilts. I can position the roll on the floor in front of the frame, and just roll out the batting up onto the frame as I am rolling out the fabric to be quilted. The one end of the batting layer is pinned to the backing, and then the quilt top is pinned to those two layers, forming the quilt sandwich. I actually purchased a fourth rail for the Grace frame, onto which the batting roll can be wound. One of these days I will find that fourth rail and install it. The second of the two batting rolls is for larger-sized quilts. The batting is folded double, and then wound onto the cardboard roll. So it doesn’t conveniently unwind from the roll like the first one does. You have to unroll the estimated length of batting, cut it off, and then unfold the large section of batting in half, and pin it to the backing.
One thing I enjoy about the Qnique and Grace Frame set up is that pinning the fabric layers to the frame takes significantly less time than pinning the layers of a quilt for quilting on a home sewing machine. You pin the selvedge edge of the backing to Leader #1, then the opposite end to Leader #2, then roll it up on the rails, smoothing it out with your hands. No need for fifty-thousand pins with the little foam bobbers, or safety pins, or clips. However, in this case, since all the table runners were not the same length, and there were so many separate edges above and underneath the batting layer, a bit of mayhem ensued.
All five pieces were conjoined in the batting layer, as seen above. But when the ruler base attached to the throat plate of the Qnique slid across to continue quilting the top next to it, it sometimes slipped the backing layer of its neighbor (underneath the throat plate) out of alignment, which wasn’t easily seen from the top side. And because all the tops and bottoms were of slightly different dimensions, some of the backing layers had a bit of slack, which wasn’t easily seen from the top, and which resulted in a few big puckers.
DH (Skip) suggested that next time, I sew the edges of each runner together prior to quilting them on the frame. I don’t like that idea, because I feel that the seam ripper should be used for ripping out undesirable stitches that occur by accident, not on purpose. But, if I ever do 5 at a time again, it might be worth a try to see if sewing them together causes less shifting of layers.
After the quilting, and cutting out the separate runners, and truing up the edges, I found that I would need to rip and redo several areas of quilting, due to puckers, overlaps, and other unsightly mistakes. In a couple of spots, when I slid the Qnique over to the next runner, the hopping foot got entangled in the edge of the top fabric and had to be cut loose with scissors. Sheesh.
The worst shifting and puckering occurred in the inner three table runners. The outer two turned out with the least amount of rework needed, perhaps because the bungee clips which hold the fabric taut, are attached to the two outside runners. This is the reason for DH’s suggestion that all the lengthwise edges be seamed together for quilting, so that the tops and bottoms are one continuous piece of fabric during the quilting step. But I also feel that these errors can be chalked up to overall unfamiliarity with the process. Perhaps they could be prevented in the future by smoothing all the fabric pieces, exercising extreme vigilance of the under layer, and perhaps installing the fourth rail and rolling the batting on it, thereby keeping the batting layer more taut and uniformly stretched out during quilting.
Next pass, I pinned up the last two table runners to the frame. These, too, were of slightly different lengths, so one of them had some slack in it during the quilting step.
I pinned them up closer together, practically touching, but I didn’t sew the edges together. I ended up with a couple of minor puckers and overlaps. But the one with the pink backing, because of its additional length compared to the other one, had about a 5-inch space at the end that couldn’t be passed over with the machine, because its neighbor was already at the end of its quiltable area.
So this last little bit, as well as several areas on the previously mentioned runners that had to be picked out and re-quilted, were done on the Brother SC9500 with the free-motion hopping foot installed. BTW, that Brother is an awesome little machine, and very affordable!
I did manage to get all the quilts (3) and table runners (7) finished, reworked if necessary, and bound. Here are a few pics of the finished items.
The last one is not bound yet, because I couldn’t find anything in the stash right away that would make it “pop.” But the cats love it already. This is a slippery, satiny fabric that is possibly meant to represent snowy winter camouflage. For a backing, I used a silvery hologram-looking knit fabric. I love all of the camo remnants!