Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April's Fool and Flu

I was really excited for my first really busy weekend at the nursery this past weekend.  The older staff talks about those days like they are battles or storms that nobody could fathom forgetting. So I was really disappointed when I came down with food poisoning at 2 in the morning, 6 hours short of my first busy weekend.  When after a few hours the chills and headache began, it was pretty clear it wasn't food poisoning.

I didn't think I'd ever been too sick to knit, but this weekend I truly was.  I seriously laid on the couch for 16 hours, trying to summon enough strength to go refill my ginger ale that my uncle had brought me. I'm loads better, but still a bit wobbly.  I did go to work yesterday, but not for a full day and I bleached everything that I touched after I used it. I still haven't eaten a proper meal since this all started Friday night.  And that was my weekend.

I did manage to finish one little project I had started last week- yet another stash busting shelter blanket. Tada! I think I have enough stash left for one more...
If you're new to the blog, I routinely do destashing projects like this: Crochet a square using a giant hook and at least 6 strands of yarn.  This blanket probably ate 6 pounds of yarn (that I was never going to use), unraveled 3 sweaters (that I was never going to finish) and is now headed to the Humane Society where it will serve as a bed for a homeless animal. So these blankets are a great thing all around. And they don't have to be beautiful- animals are color blind and probably just happy to have something of their own. 

That was finished on Sunday night.  After 19 hours of sleep on Saturday, I was feeling a lot better on Sunday, albeit still a little wobbly and green around the gills. I tried to work on my Harvest Home cross stitching and decided it's probably time for it to go back in to stash room for a few months.  I was tired of trying to figure out which of the unmarked 12 shades of green went in to this one part and I decided I needed a new project for a bit. Plus there's been one cross stitching project calling to me since I got the right fabric and threads for it back in September...

Well...almost the right fabric.

I began this Halloween cross stitch project a couple years ago and after I got about 1/6th of it done, figured out I didn't have enough fabric. And the bad thing about cross stitching is that you can't really add more to it once you made that first big mistake.  I was also using a really rough aida cloth that was almost burlap.  I loved the look of it, HATED touching it.  I also wasn't thrilled about my selection of thread- it was a tad big for the project.  So I wasn't too terribly upset about the mulligan. When visiting a yarn shop in Bloomington, IL last fall I had some time to kill before my meeting.  They had a pretty fantastic embroidery section and I found my perfect thread- a Shaker Sampler cotton called Raven.  It was black from a distance, but close up it had a beautiful, hand painted green in it as well. The fabric I saw was amazing- a gorgeous tea stained antiqued cream color that had a personality but wasn't too demanding for attention.  I had to have it.  But it was $40 a square foot- and I wasn't sure how much I needed.  I opted for the stuff that was $8 a square foot and decided to bust out the tea bags the other day.  Surely it can't be that hard.  Can it?
I did some research online and found warnings to crafters of the dangers of dyeing fabric with tea, which made me even more excited/determined to do it.  I wanted a nice, spotty/splotchy fabric that had a few highs and lows, but nothing too extreme.  Since I was only going to be using one color of thread (black) I wasn't too worried about how it would stain my threads.  I'll just try not to sit on a white couch while I'm stitching- problem solved.  So I put on the kettle and got to work. 

It was pretty easy.  I thought I'd dab the wet tea bags over the dry fabric before immersing it all into a very large, very strong cup of tea and letting it sit for a while.  The dabbing really didn't do anything, so I just put it all down in there with the tea bags. I did get a few darker spots where the tea bags actually sat, and I love that. As I was taking the tea bags out and rinsing the fabric to eliminate the excess tea, I noticed that one of the spots was a little more red than the others- I dug out the tea bags and saw that I had accidentally used a roobios (red African tea leaf) in there too.  You can see that splotch in the hoop. 
I set the fabric in the screened in porch and there was enough wind to have it dry in a few hours.  I began stitching a bit later, and I'm thrilled with this project now.  Love the pattern, love the fabric, love the thread.  I'm so glad I decided to try again with this project. Probably should have ironed the fabric before I started but I'm not too worried about it. 
So that's my crafting for now- a change of cross stitch projects and a few other knitting projects that I'm not really wanting to do right now but need to finish regardless. I'll try to finish up another one or two before my trip to Paris next month so I can start something exciting and new without project-guilt.

So I'll leave you to your needles with a few pictures of Spring at Chez Paige...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Quilted with Love

Every once in a while I start a new project and I get a little...obsessed.  Rob's t-shirt quilt was definitely one of those projects.  It didn't hurt that it went REALLY quickly too.

So when I last blogged I had two columns of t-shirts done.  The next day I had 4.
It was going so quickly.  I think I sewed a whole column together during the commercial break of one of my shows.  Seriously.  The next day brought the blue strips between the columns and the sides. This part was a little trickier because for some reason the t-shirts wanted to stretch a lot more than they did from side-to-side (which still perplexes me knowing what I know about knit fabric). 
As you can see, I had a lot of help on this step. It sat like this for a few days because I was working a lot and wasn't looking forward to all of the precise trimming I needed to do to make it even horizontally. The Habitat for Humanity square had to lose an inch and a few others lost half an inch before the top and bottom blue went on. 
Somehow it ended up wider than it is tall.  Hmm.  Wasn't planning on that.  Luckily I had enough backing fabric to accommodate it. It's all good. So it sat like that for a few more days.  This morning I got up bright and early and met my friend Sally who happens to have a long arm quilting machine.  I was there at 9 and by noon we had this...
Using the long arm is fun and kind of scary.  It's an absolutely huge machine and I'm terrified I'm going to do something wrong and break it somehow.  So I enjoyed having adult supervision when I was working on it.  It's a really strange and complicated machine- I think it might actually be easier to fly a plane than operate a long arm.  And it's super noisy- it sounds like a weed whacker that's sending out morse code. Anyhow, it took about 2 hours to set it up on the long arm and an hour to do the actual quilting. Last time we did this, Sally programmed a pattern in to the machine and we just cranked the quilt up and over to let the machine keep quilting.  This time I free-handed it, which means I held handles that felt a little like riding a bike and steered in stitches.  It was pretty fun.  

Next I trimmed the batting so it stopped at the edge of the quilt top. 
Next I cut the excess backing fabric away so that only 2 inches remained on each side.  I didn't do a proper binding because I'm lazy like that.  So I pulled the backing fabric up, folded it over and stitched it down.  It took about an hour and I really like it.  I think the crazy fabric is great because it (a) was in my stash and I didn't have to pay for it this week, (b) ties in the different colors in the t-shirts and (c) isn't going to show as much dirt as a solid color backing, which is great because boys are pretty gross sometimes. So it's a win all around. 
Here's a sexy shot of the backing fabric.  I think it looks pretty cool with the front. And I don't think it's too girly. 
And now the quilt is in the wash because I had lots of kitty help and Rob is quite allergic. I used polyester batting instead of cotton batting this time because it was on super duper sale this week and I figured Rob wouldn't know the difference between the $6 batting and the $30 batting. It's still batting.  Sally thinks the polyester is going to poof up quite a bit more though and it will be more like a comforter afterwards.  So if there's a dramatic change post-washing, I'll post a new picture. 

Lastly, here's a couple of my little "secrets".  I figured I'd have a little fun with it since I was guiding the machine instead of programming it. 
(I put 3 hearts in it)
Proof that it's a labor of love. I considered putting an applique heart on it somewhere but I figured this was more subtle and that's how I roll.  I wanted to keep it as manly as possible. (Minus the hearts.  But those are my little secret.)