Felting: At a Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

I know, I know…not the best blogger lately.  I’ve been busy and hopefully, when I look back, I’ll say it was busy in a good way as I juggle recently-started full-time work and my work-related studies.  I’ve had very little time for creative endeavours.  Worse, shortly after Christmas I found myself completely derailed in my quest to complete my 21 UFOs before early March and one year after starting on this.  Know though that I have been being kind to myself!

On the creative front, with a week to spare, a space opened up and I did manage to move off the waiting list and into the actual workshop for a 3-day course in early March on nuno felting with Judith Dios.  It really helped that it was held in my hometown.  I loved the results from this course so much that, as soon as I got home, I immediately ordered a dozen yards of each of the silks she commonly uses in her work.  Judith has clearly done a lot of experimentation as she creates her beautiful garments and she freely shared all she had learned in this course.  Her handouts were terrific!  She also brought lots of her own work for inspiraton.  I was amazed at how beginner and experienced felters were able to produce some truly lovely pieces.  I played it safe making a couple of scarves but others were fearlessly tackling vests, tops and enormous wraps.

Three things made the results of the course different from a what I often associate with felted garments.  One was the colour — Judith has a technique for adding colour that produces subtle pastels.  The other is the lightness — her techniques produce a really lightweight garment or accessory that is quite mold-able to the wearer.  Finally, I found her embellishment ideas to be unique.  She shared quite a bit about how to make those embellishments work (e.g. not fall off and not be too heavy for the item).  She also paid attention to decorating both sides of a scarf so it looked great no matter which side was facing up when wearing it.  Her “no roll” method was pretty neat too and the result of considerable trial and error from what I could tell.

I started with a simple scarf and tried all the basic ideas.  This first one is close to 2 meters (nearly 7′) long by 15 – 18 cm (6″ – 7″) wide — shrinkage was around 30%.  I hope the photo conveys how lightweight it is.

2014-03-30 Narrow scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshopShe has a technique for creating a ruffle effect and here’s a closeup of my interpretation. She is much better than I but I’m still impressed that I could get this sort of working too!

2014-03-30 Closeup of ruffle on narrow scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

Then I moved up to a wider scarf.  Unfortunately I was a bit heavy-handed laying down the wool and this one, although still lightweight, is a bit thicker than the blue one.  Too much wool meant it also shrank more — it’s about 1.5 meters (about 5′) long by 36 – 38 cm (14″ – 15″) wide.

2014-03-30 Wide scarf made in Judith Dios nuno felting workshop

Judith showed us how to work effectively on the short 1.8 meter (6′) tables in the classroom.  However, the next time I do this, I want to work on a long table where I can see all the work at once and what I’m doing embellishment-wise.  Come summer, I’ll have access to studio space again and I’m now ready to do more of this type of felting.

For anyone interested, Judith lives on the west coast of Canada and I think she’s an excellent workshop leader.  She had 12 people in her workshop and she was able to help everyone get something useful out of the experience.  She came prepared to work with supplies that students brought to class as per her supply list or to sell small amounts from her own supply to provide only what people needed for their projects.  I found the cost of the workshop supplies for my two silk and fine merino scarves to be quite reasonable.  I liked that she provided handouts with estimates of the cost of different projects and gave measurements so students could choose projects that fit within their budget.  All in all, a wonderful experience.

Also, big thanks to Karin Millson, who took a workshop from Judith last fall out on the West coast and realized that we all could benefit from having her come to our area. Karen managed all the administrivia and millions of tiny details including securing loans of such items as microwaves and kettles as well as hosting Judith.

Posted in Acid dyes, Clothing, Felting, In Person, Learning, Wool | Tagged | 12 Comments

Best wishes to all

There are so many celebrations taking place this time of year that I’m not going to single out any one in particular — just extend my best wishes to all.  I like to raise my spirits this time of year with the oh-so-cold and oh-so-short days in my part of the northern hemisphere by being thankful for so many aspects of my life and tackling things that I’ve been putting off.

2013-12-24 Machine-quilting prismatic quilt made with hand-dyed fabric

The machine-quilting “sweatshop” on the island counter in the kitchen continues.  I’ve decided to machine-quilt a number of stashed tops while I have the counter mostly cleared of junk.

I admired Wanda Hanson’s Prismatic Garden series of quilts for such a long time that finally, at the end of 2007, I made a top of my own using hand-dyed fabric made in a workshop led by Heide Stoll-Weber back in summer 2007.  Now, I’m getting around to machine-quilting it.  Another one I really like and am looking forward to getting finished and hung on the wall.

My process:

  • Changing threads to roughly match the strip colour.
  • Stitching close to the seam using Bottom Line thread in the top and the bobbin.
  • Using Machingers™ as my gloves to keep a good grip on my work.  These really reduce how sore my upper back gets while machine-quilting.
  • Not getting too concerned about whether or not I stitch every strip and which side of the seam the stitching is on.
  • No basting as the countertop is large enough that I can keep smoothing the quilt after I do a small set of stitching.
  • Taking lots of breaks and stretching every so often.
  • Started machine-quilting in the middle.
  • Using a walking foot which means a lot of quilt-wrestling because I only stitch forward — so lots of quilt-turning.
  • Using a very thin polyester batting that was designed to be a batting in quilted clothing — means less bulk.

Take care everyone and, if you have to drive, drive safe!

Posted in Dyeing, Fiber reactive dyes, Quilting, Wall hanging | Tagged | 6 Comments

Quilting: Indulging in a bit of finish-it-itis!

I have finished machine quilting my flying goose chase quilt with binding as the next step.  Yesterday, for some reason, I got in a finishing mood and pulled out all my pieced quilt tops that still needed machine quilting.

2013-12-16 Diagonals quilt - after machine quilting + before binding

That meant yesterday I worked at the sewing machine for about four hours and was able to finish all the machine quilting on this small top.  It’s folded up in the photo.  I pieced this small 70 cm square quilt (28” square) at Christmastime six years ago.  At the time, I wanted to see if I could take traditional quilt blocks and use hand-dyed fabric to make contemporary versions.  This one is a strip-pieced half square triangle.  For years, I’ve been stymied as to how to finish it up.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, coming up with designs for machine quilting is a real struggle for me.  I like the results from the close-to-but-not-quite-in-the-ditch quilting I did on this play piece a few months ago.  I decided to try something similar for this one. I’m avoiding stitch-in-the-ditch because I’m just not good enough at it to be happy with the results.

I dyed the fabric for this quilt at a workshop led by Heide Stoll-Weber in summer 2007 and made three quilt tops from narrow strips I cut from the fabrics.  I used my unloved fabric from the workshop for quilt backs.  I did have this quilt top rolled up with its batting and a pieced back using some of that fabric.  But when I pulled it all out of the cupboard, I decided the back was too gorgeous to use as a back (see photo at end of post) and so I substituted some fabric I had unevenly dyed light purple.

With machine-quilting, I’ve also had the challenge of thread colour.  For this quilt, I kept changing the thread and ended up using dark blue, medium green, taupe, rust brown and dusty pink.  I found changing the thread colours meant the quilting blended better with the pieced fabrics.  I didn’t baste this one.  I just started in the middle and kept laying it out flat and rearranging the layers every time I finished a small 10 – 20 cm (4″- 8″) portion of a diagonal strip.

All the threads (top and bobbin) were Bottom Line by Libby Lehman from Superior Threads.  There isn’t a source for these in Calgary, so when I’m out in the Banff area, I stop at the Sugar Pine Company in Canmore to buy some.  They have offered to ship, but I like browsing the store!

The Sugar Pine also ran a two day course in machine quilting by Ann Johnston that I took in early 2009.  As well as getting my machine set up properly for free-motion quilting, I learned a variety of ideas for machine quilting hand-dyed fabrics and some good what-not-to-do tips. During the course she introduced us to all kinds of different threads.  Thanks to her, I discovered finer threads and their effect. I now have enough of a collection that I can mix things up a little more and branch out from my former machine-quilting standby, medium grey!

2013-12-16 Diagonals quilt - after piecing + before machine quilting

It’s been nice having the kitchen island counter cleaned off enough that I can do my machine-quilting on it.  It’s slippery so it’s a little easier to wrestle the fabric sandwich when quilting.

As for the original quilt back, who knows what I was thinking when I relegated this luscious collection of fabrics to the back of a quilt?  I must have been going through a solids-and-geometrics phase.  But now, I could use them in many ways!  Consider them reclaimed!

2013-12-16 Rescued some hand-dyed fabric from becoming a quilt back

Posted in Dyeing, Fiber reactive dyes, Quilting, Wall hanging | Tagged | 10 Comments

Knitting: Wristwarmers finished and not a moment too soon

With temperatures reaching highs of -14°C (7°F) yesterday, I was driven to finally seam these lovely fuzzy wristwarmers.  I used 65 meters (71 yards) of the alpaca/merino blend I spun at the end of October.  

2013-11-20 Wristwarmers finished

So comfy.  Warm hands at last!

2013-11-20 Hand model of wristwarmers

Nice long cuffs.  I’m also wearing the shawl I finished in October.  A girl can never have too many purple things!

2013-11-20 Hand model of wristwarmer

Here they are blocking on my improvised blocking setup:  1″ styrofoam insulation (2′ x 4′ sheet) with one of my dyeing towels (aka very inexpensive car washing towel from Costco) and T-pins.2013-11-20 Wristwarmers blocking

Lace is not my thing but I do keep trying.  I use a rustic spinning technique to produce a “textured” yarn so the mistakes are not too glaring!  The horizontal streaks are from uneven dyeing. I didn’t drum card the dyed roving — I just spun from the dyed roving without worrying about the lighter and darker areas.  I find the results interesting.

I knit the wristwarmer on the left first.  The lace pattern is from Miriam Felton’s Lace Shawl Design class on Craftsy.  I inserted the thumb part of the pattern Generic Mittens Knit Flat on Ravelry and cast the stitches off with a single crochet.  Miriam’s pattern is an odd number of stitches and I didn’t realize how tough it would be to insert the thumb in the middle while still maintaining the pattern.  Of course, that didn’t work well for me at all and the strange, straight line of holes on the upper left edge of the wristwarmer on the left proves it!

I added a stitch in the middle of the pattern for the second wristwarmer with better results although there are still some knitting errors.  I’m not comfortable ripping back lace so I’m just choosing to live with the mistakes.

I’m finding my thumbs are just a teeny tiny bit cold and I might crochet about 1 cm (1/2″) more onto the thumbs to make that part a little longer.  Otherwise, they’re fine!

I didn’t keep track of my knitting time but I don’t feel like this project took more than 5 hours of knitting and finishing added to the 4 hours of dyeing and yarn-making.  It turned out to not be a good TV-watching project for me and so I had to fit in into other spare hours.

More project details on Ravelry.

Posted in Alpaca, Clothing, Knitting, Spinning, Wool | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Quilting: Finally basting flying goose chase quilt

2013-11-17 UFO 12  Basting flying goose quiltSometimes the prerequisites to getting something finished seem way too overwhelming. But then, as many before me have discovered, just starting on them leads to them getting done.  As I result I’m finally basting UFO #12 — the flying goose chase quilt.

I’m using the island counter in the kitchen as my work surface.  Of course, it needed to be cleared and scrubbed down before I could entrust my fabric to it.  Before I could get to that, I needed to choose a border fabric and get it sewn on.  No small feat it itself given I had really gummed up the edges of this quilt in an attempt to stabilize the crummy fabric I used.  Anyway, that’s behind me now.

I’m finding the countertop is such a nice huge surface to work on that I’m thinking of setting my sewing machine up on it and doing the machine quilting this afternoon while I monitor stovetop cooking down of tomatoes to make sauce.

I identified this block using Ruth McKendry’s 1979 book on Canadian quilts — Plate 267 — circa 1860.  My version doesn’t have the sashing in the original.

UFO #12 is the last of the UFOs I identified back in March of this year.  When this is done, I can start on a whole new list!  Can’t wait!

Posted in Quilting, Wall hanging | Tagged | 4 Comments

Stash-busting knitting: Leftovers scarf headed for frog pond

2013-11-08 Stash-busting knitting - scarf headed for frog pondProof that what looks good on graph paper drawn with coloured pencils can knit up pretty ugly. Also proof that improvisational knitting while watching TV is maybe not the best idea.  Yes, I had a sketch on paper but then I started playing with it as I was knitting.  Final size: 25 cm x 165 cm (10″ wide x 65″ long) using 300 grams (10.5 oz) of yarn.

Now that I see the finished product (before weaving all those ends in and blocking), I see that maybe my sketch was problematic from the beginning.  I do like parts of it — like the square within square pattern.  But generally, it looks a bit like a set of samplers and some hideous ones at that.   That magenta colour is way too scary bright for me and I might leave it out completely next time.

My knitting starts on the right hand side and, as I got to the end on the left hand side, I was having a tough time getting something workable out of the leftovers.  The green and turquoise are quite close in value and so the pattern is quite indistinct when these two colours are side by side.

Even though I have now taken this yarn and broken it into even smaller pieces, I’m still going to frog it. It’s too hideous to give away.  I’m thinking four-row stripes might be the way to go on my next attempt!  And maybe a bit narrower — 15 cm (6″) wide.

Posted in Clothing, Knitting, Stash-busting, Wool yarn | 12 Comments

Hang a Star on that One Award: “The Internet made me do it”

hang-a-star-awardAs I’ve been trying to be more conscious of spending and acquiring I’ve become really miserly in the acquisitions department for the past 4 years.  So I had a bit of a laugh when Q “blamed” me (and others) for her recent acquisitions, invited the culprits to identify their own enablers and then went so far as to create the “Hang a Star on That One” Award specially for this!

Here goes.  Since I started this blog in May 2012, the Internet conspired to inspire me to buy the following:

2013-11-04 Spinners Book of Yarn DesignsQ of Curls and Q inspired me to buy the Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs thanks to her repeated references to it during her posts about her spinning class.  Sigh.  I just got worn down and had to buy it!  It’s a great book and no regrets on this one.  Right back at you Q!

By the way, that book link is a WorldCat reference and I’m hoping everyone can use that resource locate a copy in a nearby public library.  I was able to borrow a copy from my local library and that cinched the deal for buying my own copy.

2013-11-04 Envirobatts from Ottawa Valley Fiber ArtsTina, at Peacefully Knitting, who provides constant temptation every week in so many dimensions (yarn, books, stuff), inspired me to participate in a crowdsourcing scheme back in February which resulted in the acquisition of — yikes! — more fiber.  I was happy to help a fellow Canadian acquire a marvelous drum carder so she could expand her Envirobatts business — recycling waste fiber into spinnable batts. As a result of my contribution, I received three small batts, a bonus braid and a sample of Soak!

I think I’m going to blame Kimberly at Craftini: My Daily Cocktail of Yarn, Beads and Paper for tempting me to resurrect my interest in jewelry-making.  She was flaunting some fabulous stuff she’d made a year ago and I was smitten.  I signed up for two costs-money Craftsy courses and a freebie. I started browsing jewelry making supply stores and buying tools.  I made some stitch markers and then I stopped.  By Christmas 2012, a couple of hundred dollars into this, I could tell I was falling headlong into yet another mega-acquisition for yet another hobby. Everything was so exciting and my stuff-purging had created lots of space for me to expand into!  I know I’ll get back to this but I need to move forward in a more intentional way.

I also follow Shireen, another Canadian, over at Blue Brick and I have to admit that, as an amateur photographer myself, her expert photography is quite a lure.  She makes jewelry too and, after drooling over the preview photos, I couldn’t resist her recently-released e-book on resin jewelry — great ideas and expert tips in addition to the eye candy.  Best yet, she’s updating it and I’ve just received my updated version!  So while I’m holding off as hard as I can on the jewelry-making front, I’m still susceptible to acquisitions!

Yes, the Internet made me do it!

Here are Q’s “rules” — open to anyone who wants to participate:

  1. The person receiving the award is someone who has “made” you spend money. It could be that you bought a pattern, a book, a magazine, a item, a yarn, a fiber, etc.; or joined a KAL, or signed up for a class on Craftsy, etc. Remember, this is in good natured fun. A positive expenditure. Explain to the person what they “made”, “enabled”, or “tempted” you to purchase.
  2. You may give the award to as many or as few people as you like. We hate it went we’ve been given a set number to dole out an award to.
  3. Copy and past the blog award on your blog. Display it with pride. Remember that “Imitation is the best form of flattery. I’m out here totally imitating you!
  4. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.
  5. Thank the award presenter

I still have a couple more awards gratefully received several months ago that I also need to respond to.  More on that later!

Posted in Fiber, Jewelry, Spinning, Wool | Tagged | 6 Comments