Sunday, February 27, 2005

Kitchen tiling

I haven't been sewing or knitting or crafting. But we have been busy tiling the kitchen backsplash. The kitchen is now almost completely done. We have some touch up painting to do and I need to finish the kitchen curtains, but otherwise, I'm pretty happy with it.

Here are some pictures:

Here are some before pictures (messy because we were starting to pack up the kitchen):

We did all the work ourselves except for the fabrication and installation of the granite countertops. I did the design for the layout and the tiling.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Happiness is...

In-laws who travel and bring this:

from Peru. Yay!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Busy weekend

This was a fun weekend - all crafting all the time. I had a really good time at Stitches. I went to the vendor market before my class and it was SOOOOO crowded. I was glad I could shop after the class because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to buy anything (oh boo hoo!). At one point I could only glance at the stuff in the vendor's booths as I was carried along with the crowd.

The class I had Saturday afternoon on I-cord was really great. I had heard about I-cord but didn't know how to do it or how to use it. Now I know and it's really easy to make! I have ideas to use I-cord as trim on my sewing projects too. Sunday afternoon's class was called "An ounce of prevention" and promised to teach us things to prevent mistakes in knitting. It turned out that it was more or less a class on great knitting tips but they were all very useful. I learned that the cast-on I use makes it so that the first row is the wrong side. Don't ask me which cast-on I use, it's what I learned from a book many years ago and I just stuck with it. One really great tip I learned is that when you are about to get to a section that might be difficult, thread a piece of another color of thinner thread through your stitches before you continue, then you'll have a known place to rip back to.

I enjoyed the vendor market. As expected, it was fiber overload! Here's a sampling of my takehome:

The color in the photo is a little off, the hand dyed yarn in the upper right is more rust and gold colored.

And how did this get in my bag?

I guess I couldn't resist the fabric. It's Japanese kimono fabric. It was only about a foot wide and sold by the foot, so that tells you how expensive the stuff is. I still had to have it.

And if the Interweave Knits website starts to include tips on left-handed knitting, it may be thanks in part to me. I stopped at their booth to order the magazine and chatted with the editor. Since this is the first time I've ever taken a knitting class, let alone even knit with other people, I ran into some issues with my lefthandedness. I felt very much in the minority and even felt wrong for being a left handed knitter. But some people, including the Interweave editor, admired my persistence to be a true lefthanded knitter. Yes, it can be difficult to interpret a right-handed knitting instruction, but I've been blessed with a keen spatial ability, hence my occupation as an engineer I guess. Now my only problem is knowing when to change a pattern, when I'm just a newbie to reading these patterns anyway.

I managed to get some sewing done this weekend too! I finished a baby blanket for my niece. She was born last July and I'm only just now finishing it. It's flannel on one side and a fleecy blanket-type fabric on the other. I embroidered her name and birth information on the corner. I was going to bind it with some bias binding but the binding I was going to use was too wide for my bias attachment and I didn't not look forward to trying to wrestle with it. Then I got the idea to just serge the edge with decorative thread, so that's what I did.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Knitting Homework

I have knitting homework! I'm going to Stitches this weekend and I signed up for a class on I-cords and one on preventing knitting disasters. I hope these will be informative and not over my head. I really need some classes on more basic things like different casting on methods, joining seams, and blocking and finishing, but I procrastinated and those classes were filled. The disaster prevention class looks interesting and right up my alley - I'm a perfectionist (and a Virgo) and if there's anything I can do to ensure a good outcome or prevent a failure, then I'm interested. This is the class for which I have homework. Ok, it's not a big deal, two small swatches knitted in worsted weight. I was shocked and awed that I did not have any worsted weight in my yarn stash. Now I probably could have used something else but most of my yarn is sport weight or thinner because that's what my knitting machine takes and because I've knit baby things in the past. The other yarn in my stash is really fru-fru stuff like eyelash or angora blend, and I don't think that would make a good swatch for this class. But the biggest reason I dashed out to the store for some worsted weight is that I'm a rule-follower. If they say worsted weight, that's what I'll use. Yes, I'm not a very adventuresome knitter. I also follow recipes exactly.

I hope it'll be a fun weekend. I've been saving up my yarn purchases for months in anticipation of the Stitches market. I've only been to Stitches once, a few years ago, and when I walked in I almost hyperventilated with fiber overload. At least now I know what to expect.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


I saw this quilt in the latest issue of Inspired House and really like the bold colors. Posted by Hello

I'm not really a quilter but quilting is what got me back into sewing and is responsible for the expensive Pfaff sewing machine in my sewing room...and more. I have never even completed a real quilt! But there's always hope. About 6 years ago I signed up for a quilting class at a local quilt fabric store, thinking that if I took the class I might actually finish something (ha!). I didn't know that you were supposed to bring a sewing machine to the class, so I ended up using the instructor's New Home machine. I was amazed. It sewed so nicely compared to the cheap Singer model I had at home.

One day my husband and I were out shopping and decided to check out a sewing machine store that had a big neon Pfaff sign in the window. My mother has a Pfaff sewing machine and I thought maybe I'd look at sergers since she'd been suggesting I get one. At the time I wasn't sewing clothes, so I don't know why I was even looking at sergers, but I guess it was a case of having money to buy one and it seemed like a good idea. The saleswoman asked me what kind of sewing I did and having just taken the quilting class, I gleefully replied "quilting." Huh? I'd taken one class and hadn't even finished the quilt! The saleswoman showed me the Pfaff machines, touting how the built-in walking foot feature is perfect for quilting. She worked her way up from the basic model to the top of the line. Oooh. The top of the line. It had oodles of fancy stitches and even embroidered complicated designs that could be downloaded from the computer. The walls of the shop and the saleswoman's apron were covered with samples of colorful cartoon characters, flowers, and motifs. The possibilities seemed endless. "Think of the gifts I could make!" I thought. My husband looked at the four-digit price and said nonchalantly, "we can afford it." My head was spinning to own such a fancy machine. The Singer at home cost less than $200 (and sure sewed like it). I suggested that if I bought a lesser machine I could also buy the serger I originally thought about getting. The saleswoman offered that if we bought the top of the line, she'd throw in a basic serger instead of the free computer software offered with the sewing machine. "Oh, what a deal!" I thought. (Later I ended up buying the software, so I guess it wasn't that great of a deal). After more hemming and hawing and urging from my husband (can you believe it?), we bought the machine. And then some. Realizing that the machines would end up occupying the dining room table, we purchased a fancy and expensive cabinet to house both sewing machine and serger. Wrap 'em up.

Fortunately the dealer offered free lessons on how to use my new machine and for the next few Saturdays I learned how to use the stretch stitch, the zipper foot, and make buttonholes. I learned a bit about digitizing and embroidering and realized there's quite a learning curve to doing it well.

Now that we'd spent a pile of cash on these machines I of course felt required to do something with them so I began to make clothing. I started with baby clothes for my friend's new baby and eventually I braved a garment - a corduroy jumper, which I never hemmed and never wore. I learned to sew as a child but only sewed sporadically over the years, making a few simple garments and home dec items. Having the expensive machine has compelled me to use it and I do enjoy the craft. Since buying the Pfaff I've made a few decent items that I've actually worn and even took some classes in tailoring and trouser moulage from Kenneth King. I've used the embroidery feature to embellish garments, baby blankets, and pillowcases, but unfortunately embroidering takes a lot of time from initial design to stitching it out. Recently I've turned my attention back to quilts, but always the perfectionist and looking for a challenge, I decided to tackle miniature quilts.

My sewing machine collection has also grown - a top of the line serger was added a few years ago and last year I bought a second sewing machine. My fabric stash is enormous. Boxes of fabric are stacked in closets and in a cargo trailer in our driveway. My sewing supplies have taken over half of one spare bedroom and are now invading the guest room. It all started with one quilt class. I eventually finished the quilt top...but never quilted it (sigh). Someday.


The sewing/crafting/computer room is finally finished! (click pictures to see them larger):

A place for everything and everything in its place... The wood bench was a real find at Costco a few years ago. It's meant for woodworking, but is fantastic for my crafts because of the sturdy top, many full extension drawers, and even the vice on the end is useful. My husband made the pegboard for me and I find it very useful for my many sewing supplies. As you can see, I hang my Olfa mats from it and this solves the storage problem for those.

The cabinets are from IKEA. The large one is for books and bulky stuff and the small one to the right holds all the little stuff. The barrel in the corner is an old pickle barrel from my great grandfather's grocery store.

Here's another view of the room from the doorway, which shows the oriental rug. I bought this rug about 9 years ago when I lived in an apartment but didn't have a place for it in the house because the colors and size weren't right. It's been rolled up in the closet and I'd actually forgotten about it. Turns out that it's a perfect match!

A few things still remain to be done, like window coverings. I want to make a shadowbox shelf to hang on the wall next to the window for my antique thimbles, darning egg, and tape measures. I also have some design boards to put up behind the door. They need to be recovered and I've decided to hand paint/stencil the new coverings, so that will take some time.

The other half of the room is my husband's. He has an IKEA desk and another cabinet for his computer.

So now the room is done and I can resume sewing and crafting. Good thing I have some fabric. I was on the east coast and I couldn't help myself from making a trip to G Street Fabric in Rockville, MD. It's like Mecca or something. True, there are some really nice fabrics stores out here: Britex, Stone Mountain and Daughter, Poppy Fabric, and Satin Moon, to name a few, but there's something about travel fabric. I told myself (and my husband) that I wasn't going to buy any fabric. A pattern might just leap into my basket, but no fabric. And then of course I saw some fabric I couldn't resist. These were fabrics I would regret not buying. And now I must add 8.75 yards to my 2005 fabric tally. But it was worth it!