Friday, February 29, 2008

Still Punk

It was a gorgeous day outside, but I stayed inside today. This is Nawiliwili Harbor a few days ago.

I'm still feeling a little punk today (for all you international visitors, that means I'm still feeling a little sick, NOT that I went out and got my nose pierced), so I didn't get outside much. Instead, I tackled the fridge (wow...English is silly! I really didn't tackle it...that would be dumb. It's much bigger than I am...) and dumped all the stuff that got a little fuzzy while I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic about eating. So this was my day--the inside of my refrigerator. I took everything out, loaded all the shelves and drawers in the bathtub, and scrubbed down the walls. No more fuzzies in my fridge (fuzzies=mold. I didn't realize I talk in slang so much! Do any of you international visitors have trouble understanding my slanginess? Finland? Japan? Germany?)

I suppose we could speak the international language of knitting! Mmmmmm....yarn....soft....socks....yum. This is the back of the leg and heel portion of my Merino Lace Sock from the Favorite Socks book. I just turned the heel last night and I'm starting my gusset decreases (sorry quilters--now I'm speaking a foreign language to you!). I love how the lace pattern continues onto the heel.

Here is a close-up of my Araucana Ranco Multy in action:

The colors in this are unbelievable! I think there must be every color in here, but the effect is very subtle when knit up.
Shown above is the side of the sock. The large lace design is repeated on the front and back of the sock down onto the heel, and the sides of the socks have these interesting panels of ribs. I like this pattern. There's a lot going on, yet the chart is not that difficult.

Now for all you non-knitters and non-sparkling-clean-refrigerator-fans, I offer you some eye candy. Here's a sneak peek at Monday's post:

Shhhh! Be sure to check back on Monday and leave a comment on Monday's post. I'm going to take Sunday off to catch up on everything I missed while I was sick, so I'll catch up with you on Monday, when I'll announce the giveaway and you can leave your comment. Good luck!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

UFO Friday, February 29th

Here it is! I'm still feverish, but I felt good enough to finish last Friday's UFO. Here are my little Lemoyne stars made into a doll quilt. Only a couple of nine patches and a diagonal setting, et voila! Thank you all for suggesting a doll quilt--I had forgotten all about that excuse not to have to make a hanging sleeve. I was dreading making another wall quilt because I am sick of making hanging sleeves. So a doll quilt was the perfect cop-out...uh...I mean answer. The black and white stripe is the binding--but after I set the quilt on this black background, I see I could've added a black border, too--perhaps a little bit wider than my picture. Ah well, too late. It's done.

Here is a close up of the quilting. Again, flu sapped my motivation. I did something easy that I didn't have to plan too much:

Swirly things. Easy. I like my backing:Fevers make me a little crazy. I know the back has nothing to do with the front, but I was feeling feisty. And I like surprises. The quilting looks neat on the back:

One UFO down! What UFO shall I show you next? Oh yeah, another easy one. All that needs to be done on this one is a binding:

Piece O'Cake fabrics in a Piece O' Cake pattern design. I'm not sure if the pattern is still available.

This poor little quilt has been un-bound for over a year. I'm not sure why I stopped right before the binding. Unfortunately, it's not really doll quilt shape, nor is it tablerunner shape. I thought about making it into a bag, but then again, I think about making everything into a bag. Perhaps I stopped on this quilt because it was shaping up to be yet another wall quilt...and that meant yet another hanging sleeve!

UFO Fridays are educational. I didn't know that I hated making hanging sleeves so much. Perhaps I should re-evaluate my construction method, which I'll admit, is pretty perfectionist. I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about patchwork points not meeting perfectly, or sloppy machine quilting, but I guess I'm pretty fuss-budgety about sleeves. They must be straight and perfect and hand-sewn so that the quilt doesn't even know it has a hanging sleeve! I've seen sleeves that distort the quilt so badly! The poor quilt is all curled up around its rod in frightened fetal position, being choked to death by a too-tight rod....gag!! Ack!!

Yeah. Time to let that go. I'll call my quilt psychiatrist and set up and appointment.

I'm also not crazy about the quilting I did on this quilt. I took the time to hand-applique the whole thing, I don't know why I machine quilted it. I like my vines in the green squares, but I don't know why I did that plain ol' meandering thing around the flowers. I think I got lazy. The quilt deserves better....sob...I let it down. Gee, lots to talk about at that appointment this week...

My husband and I were filming his new gizmo today and we decided to take a little film of me quilting my Lemoyne star. Only my hands are visible because I'm still in my jammies surrounded by a flu cloud, but you can see how fast I go. I have my Bernina floored as fast as it will go and I try to move my hands smoothly and evenly. You can hear how fast the machine is going, but the film quality distorts the visual speed of the needle because it's not taking digital frames fast enough. So it LOOKS like I'm going slower than I am, but you can hear that the machine is at max. Click on the arrow twice to play the video:

I go really fast because I have a lot more control that way. Again, it's like driving a car. You can round curves smoother when you're driving fast than when you're driving slowly. When you're driving slowly, you have to make too many jerky corrections. Imagine trying to round a curve at 10 mph. Driving fast, you just zoom and glide, zoom and glide.

Whew...too much zooming tonight for me. More tylenol and back to bed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sick Day

Chills and fever, aches and dizziness. That was my day.
At least I did have a good book to read. I love Sue Grafton. She's my writing idol.

Speaking of idols, I did watch (and chilled and sweated through) American Idol tonight. You all are right, that Utah kid is amazing. It might have been the flu, but his rendition of "Imagine" got me all misty-eyed. I think he'll win. There's just no one else that comes close. He's cute and humble and adorable, plus he's got an incredible voice and delivery. Sorry if I'm rambling; it's the fever.

Snow at Kukui Grove, click to enlarge
I thought I'd leave you with a picture of Kukui Grove Mall, taken a couple of days before Christmas. Can you see the snow falling? It wasn't real snow, but it was pretty fun. The "snow" was actually bits of frothy foamy bubbles blown out by a "snow" machine mounted on top of the building. I had to sit under the snow machine for two hours this past Christmas in a booth for Kauai Hospice, so I got "snowed" on for two hours. Everytime I opened my mouth to talk to prospective donors, I would inadvertently inhale foam blobs. I think my coughing fits made people donate more. I hope that stuff was non-toxic.

Off to bed. Hopefully, I'll feel good enough to quilt again tomorrow. Life intervenes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Phone Rang

Hmmmmph! Today, I planned on quilting and working on projects all day, but wouldn't you know it, the phone rang ( know how I feel about that!) and sent me on errands all day. You want to tag along? Good. Because then I'll have someone to talk to while I wait in traffic. At least the scenery's good while we wait for things to open up.

First stop is the Lihue post office. I don't usually go to this post office, but I have to go to "the big city," so here we are. No Blaine here. I hardly know any of these post office people, so I won't take their picture. People get nervous about that sort of thing, and one thing should never do is anger a postal worker. Just sayin'...

I used one of my pillowcase bags to carry my pattern mail orders for the day. Those upside down bouquets make me laugh every time I see them. Note to self: next time, do not use directional fabrics for this pattern, especially if you're not planning on paying attention.

Coming out of the post office, I can't help but notice what a pretty day it is! Where to next?

Whoo hoo! Macy's! Yes, we have a Macy's here. As you can see, it's pretty tiny by Mainland standards, but we're lucky to have a Macy's at all! By the way, Macy's was the phone call I got this morning. They called me because these came in:

Yay! The Skechers I've been waiting for have finally arrived! Macy's called to let me know. (I guess not all phone calls are bad, just most of them). Now you know why I had to drop everything and go into town. When Macy's calls, you go. The island is very small and competition for a few items is fierce.

I think I'll take my new shoes and walk over to Starbuck's and get a steamed soy milk with nutmeg sprinkled on top. The mall looks pretty empty today.

Steamed soy in hand, we'll head back home to Kapaa. I have some books to pick up at the library.
I LOVE our little library. It's right on the ocean. Those of you who have been to Kauai will laugh at the chickens. Those of you who haven't, I'll let you in on the joke: wild chickens are everywhere. Other cities have pigeons or squirrels, we have wild chickens. Everywhere.

When you walk out the back door of the library, you are here, right on the ocean. You can pick out a book and go outside to read it at the picnic tables. Ahhhh. But it's late, so we better be heading back home.

Five o'clock in Old Kapaa Town and the traffic is stop-and-go. We only have one highway on the island, a two-laner, so traffic backs up in the evening. Fortunately, we're close to home.

Back home to cook dinner and settle in for some mindless TV and sock knitting. Perhaps I can get back to quilting tomorrow. I'm definitely NOT going to answer the phone tomorrow. Even if it is Macy's. Well...unless my burgundy pair with the cute little strap comes in. Then maybe.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quilting "Kisses"

I decided to quilt my "Kisses" quilt on my "machina-ma-thing." I'm not really sure what to call this homemade long arm quilt frame my husband built for me. Sometimes I call it my "dorky homemade Gammill" or my "machine-on-a-stick." I only use this machine when I'm doing a simple fill pattern, because I don't have as much control on it as I do my Bernina. It's not built for precision, it's built for getting 'er DONE.

My sweet husband is amazing. I showed him a picture of a Gammill in a magazine one day and he went out and got all the supplies to build me this version. I can quilt a king size bedspread on it! It cost less than a hundred dollars to build and I've been using it happily for over ten years now. It's made of wood, angle irons, sprinkler pipe, and mattress ticking. It rolls very smoothly in all directions, and it works just fine for me. I love it.

I pin both edges to the ticking flaps, making sure my quilt is centered.

My quilt is already pin basted. I pin baste my quilts on a big table using notebook clamps for the edges. My favorite batting is Hobbs Heirloom. I safety pin about one spread hand width apart. Before I quilt a row, I take the pins out of that row only. My favorite thread to quilt with is Mettler Metrolene, but I have to mail order it. Superior Thread's Bottom line is great too, and readily available. I use it both on top and in the bobbin. I like a thin, strong thread for quilting. A thin strong polyester thread gives me lots of texture and doesn't show mistakes like thicker thread does. I used to always use cotton thread for everything, but for quilting, I'm a poly convert. Less breakage, lots of texture.

Elastic and tent clamps help tension the sides.
A long view.
My machine is a Brother PQ1500S. It has a longer arm than a regular sewing machine, but is lightweight and meant for home use. It was relatively inexpensive (under $1000) and has everything I need to quilt, including an automatic thread cutter, which is very handy. It only does straight stitch, both with the feed dogs up and down. To quilt on this machine, I lower the feed dogs. On my Bernina, I leave them up while I'm doing free motion quilting.

I bought the Handi-handles separately. The numbered dial is the speed and the red button is stop and go. These handles take the place of the foot pedal, which I used to have mounted up on top of the machine to control the speed. It was awkward trying to control the speed with my hand and quilt at the same time. With the handles, my hands are freer and I can quilt at a constant speed.

Ready to take off!

This is a little pattern I like to doodle--it reminds me of chicken heads. Flowery chicken heads. Don't ask me what that means--as I keep telling you, I am not an artist. I can't do chickens or flowers, but I can do flowery chicken heads.

I usually quilt one row, then go do something else for a while, come back and do another. My maximum is four rows a day because I become so immersed in it that my head and shoulders get stiff. It's impossible to think about relaxing and sewing on this machine. My shoulders end up somewhere north of my chin every time. So I do a row and relax. Do a row and relax. Repeat until quilt is finished.

I want to give you some machine quilting pointers while we're quilting this quilt. What I tell you doesn't just apply to my long arm set-up here, it applies to quilting you do on your regular machine, too.

My pointer for today is something that I learned from Harriet Hargrave when she came to teach on Kauai back in the early 90's. I think of this tip every time I quilt and I will paraphrase her here:

When machine quilting, many quilters stare at their needle as they move the quilt through it. That's really funny when you think about it. Where do you think the needle is going? No matter how much you stare, that needle is just going to go up and down! When you drive, do you stare at your steering wheel? No! You look at the road and see what's coming up. Your steering wheel is not going anywhere; it's the road you have to watch!

So quilters, watch the road. Watch where you're heading with the needle. Stare at the path you want your needle to take--watch the quilt "road" ahead. Yes, that needle going up and down is hypnotic, but watching it is not going to help you quilt. Keep your eyes on your quilt, not the needle. I think that this is great advice, but I still catch myself staring transfixedly at the needle sometimes.

By the way, the green stuff on the ice cream in yesterday's post was green beans! I wrote that post late last night and couldn't find a picture of food in my own files I wanted to use, so I googled "weird food" and that picture popped up. I should have given the author/photographer credit, so here is the site I found it on: Darren's Diatribe. I didn't read the rest of his blog, but it there are some interesting food items on it that he encountered in China. There are some truly alarming pictures on his page, but as you know now, I would try just about anything. I thought it was jalapeno salsa on that ice cream--and it actually looked pretty good to me!

More quilting tomorrow! I'm really happy to have gotten some quilting done today! I didn't get much email done, though. And guess what? More email came today, just like yesterday. It kills me not to answer it promptly, but a girl's gotta quilt, right?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Seven Random Things

I got tagged by two people this week to do a "Seven Random Things About Me" post. I love reading these lists when other people write them, so I will try to come up with seven random things about me that might be in the least bit interesting. It's more difficult than you might imagine! But here goes:

1. My ancestor came to America from England as a sixteen-year-old boy in 1675 aboard a passenger ship called "The Encrease." His mother, who was a seamstress, stayed behind in London. The other part of my ancestral tree was already there to meet him. I am English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Cherokee and Osage. My great Grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee. She and her brother were orphaned during the Trail of Tears and taken in by an Arkansas family. I'm also a direct descendant of former presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Do I look like a Native American? No. Do I look like John Adams? I surely hope not.

My great-great grandmother Evaline (not the Cherokee.) She was a midwife-physician.

2. I was second runner-up in the Miss Teenage America Orange County Pageant. After the pageant, one of the judges approached my mother and I told us that I might have placed higher if I hadn't been "so well-developed." She eyed my chest as she spoke. Apparently, I wasn't respectable enough to be Miss Teenage America! I was only fifteen; I don't think she knew that a comment like that would stick with me my whole life! I'm still embarrassed by the size of my chest. I have to take twenty pictures of myself to find one where I don't think I look obscene in it. In my books, I've discussed my dislike of beauty pageants, contests and judging. Now you know why.

3. I'm an Anglophile. I love all things English (especially on Masterpiece Theater!) and would love to visit England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland someday. Too bad I don't love airplanes so much. I'm waiting until they perfect that "beaming" thing they do on Star Trek. It shouldn't be too much longer.

A half-time Pink Kitty quilt break.

4. I detest...I repeat DETEST...the telephone. I would gladly do without one if I could. I don't even answer the phone; I have an answering machine. Even then, I don't return calls because I dread using the phone. I just can't understand disembodied voices! I have to see people in order to listen them. I have a hard time making sense of a string of words without seeing facial expressions and moving lips. My friends know to email me.

5. I also think I don't like the telephone because I'm not a talker. I never have been. I find it very difficult to say anything unless I've had a big dose of caffeine. If I go to a party, lecture, or teach a class, I have to load up on coffee or diet coke in order to be able to talk! I'm definitely an introvert. Unless I have to speak to an auditorium of four hundred people (which I have)--then I cannot be an introvert. Or a non-talker. That would be bad. To get through it, I pretend I'm an extrovert. So far, it's worked. Only you know the truth.

This day required extra caffeine.

6. I'm a very non-picky eater. I love everything, especially vegetables. I love the spicy, weird, and exotic. I'll try any food and probably love it. The only food that's borderline for me is plain eggs. Eggs sort of gross me out--especially restaurant eggs. What IS that runny stuff that oozes out of them?

7. I have a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology, with minors in Psychology and Chemistry from San Diego State University. I worked as a Clinical Lab Scientist before I had my son in 1987, then became a stay-at-home mom. Having a degree in microbiology has one drawback: potlucks gross me out. If the health inspector has not inspected your kitchen, then I'm sorry, I cannot eat your potato salad without my gag reflex kicking in. Sorry, my imagination is not under my control. I've seen too much.

There it is! Yay! I did it!

Today, all I accomplished was a trip to the post office and some email. I say "some" because there are over 600 messages in my inbox--not including spam! But tomorrow, I am going to start quilting my "Kisses" quilt, no matter what. Pictures of quilts are possible tomorrow, so come back. Less talk, more quilting pictures. I promise.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

UFO Friday

Mmmmm....a toasty rainbow. This, my friends, is Araucania Ranco yarn in "Multy." Guess what I started today?

Yippee! A new sock. This one will be the Lace Merino Sock from the "Favorite Socks" book. I can't wait to see all those yummy colors parade past my fingers, one by one, on their way to becoming my newest pair of handknit socks.
Here's the tiniest little idea of what's to come. Gosh, I love all these colors. The yarn is really springy, soft and nice.

I started this pattern because I needed a simple sock to knit during "American Idol" season. I love that show, even though they do some mean stuff on it. I think the guys have it all over the girls this year, and I especially love the guy from Texas with the dreads! He's such a cutie with that goofy little smile when he sings! Or how about that guy that did "Light My Fire" at the end of the guy show? Whoo hoo! He really channeled Jim Morrison, didn't he? I thought he was hot!

Ahem...where was I? Oh yeah, socks.

Lest you wonder if I actually ever get to wear my handknit woolen socks, I offer proof here:

My socky leg, propped up on a car door for evidence. Yes, I actually do get to wear my handknit socks! On vacation in Washington state, that is. We went to visit my son in October, and I was thrilled to be able to wear my handknit socks. I, of course, packed every pair I own and I wore them all! Unfortunately, the rest of me looked like this at the time:

Honestly, it must take talent to wear winter clothes well. Why didn't someone tell me I looked like such a dork? I blame it on those tiny hotel mirrors--the ones that don't show anything past your neck. I obviously needed a full-length mirror on this day, or perhaps a husband fashion-savvy enough to stage an intervention. How could he let me tromp around U.W. looking like Elmer Fudd?

And oh my gosh, why do you ladies who have to wear all these clothes even bother with dieting? Who would know what size you are under all this?

In contrast, take a look at the clothing department at our Lihue KMart in JANUARY. No lie. I took this picture on January 29th:

Winter outerwear, Kauai style. No hiding in these dresses in winter. Too bad they don't look that great with woolen socks. Or Elmer Fudd hats.

Enough socks and bad fashion pictures burned into your brain. Let's talk some quilting. I've decided that every Friday should be a UFO day on my blog. Inspired by many of you bloggers courageous enough to document your UFO's, I've decided to be brave and show you all my UFO's, one every Friday. You can help me decide to either:

1. Finish the entire quilt, or

2. Give up and toss the project, or

3. Save the blocks for a future project, or for the back of some future project.

Let's start small. These are 8" blocks that I made in a Sharyn Craig class when she taught at Quilt Hawaii in 2004. There are only six blocks made, but I cut stacks of diamonds with a template ( took me HOURS):

I can tell by my centers which blocks were my first ones. I like piecing challenges, but I think the small size of the diamonds is what drove me nuts. I did it; I pieced six, but I don't think I want to piece any more. Is this quilt worth finishing? Or is it table runner time?

I am terribly behind on my email and have a large pattern order tomorrow, so I'm afraid I won't be posting again until Sunday. I have 96 little %$#@! bows to tie tomorrow. My fingers are already trembling with dread. Have a wonderful Saturday and I'll see you Sunday!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

If it's Perjantai, This Must Be Finland

Uh oh. What day is this? Is it Perjantai? Or is it Lauantai? Because if it's Perjantai, I gotta get down to the post office and mail "ladydi's" prize to her.

I can see by looking at my calendar that my friend Anne sent me from Finland that it's indeed Perjantai. And it's almost Maauskuu! Where did all of Helmikuu go?

No, I don't speak Finnish. But I love this calendar. There seems to be an special occasion printed on every day! There's something that looks like "Valentine's Day" on February 14th, but I have no idea what all these other special occasions are. The Finnish must celebrate a lot. Maybe it has something to do with that mysterious white fluffy stuff that's covering most everything from Marraskuu to Maaliskuu; I haven't a clue. It sure is pretty, though.

Before we leave for the post office, let's check out my pillowcases I finished:

No, I didn't do the embroidery, although I've got the bug to do a little bit of embroidery right now. I bought these pillowcases from ebay and decided they needed a nice crocheted edging. I put the color choice up for a vote (thanks for voting) and blue won! What do you think?

I actually started a couple of more intricate crochet patterns, but they were too fussy and I frogged them. I like simple edgings that don't entangle your fingers in in the middle of the night, so I ended up with this pattern.

After I knit for a while, it always surprises me when I pick up a crochet hook again. Crochet is so fast compared to knitting! I like both, though. Crochet comes a lot more naturally to me, since I've been crocheting since I was a little girl. I just learned to knit last year and it's still a struggle.

Ready to head to the post office? Let's go!

The Kapaa post office is NOT an architectural marvel, so I'll spare you the front end view. It's got a slightly rusty tin roof, wood rot and a perpetually broken front door, so it fits in perfectly with the rest of the beach town. The tropical weather, especially down near the ocean, is not kind to structures of any sort. It's also not kind to cars, appliances, houses, etc. Besides, a hurricane comes along every ten years or so and knocks everything down anyway, so why bother building a monument? No worries.

The view from the side of the post office is much prettier to look at. The ocean is to our left. The mountain straight ahead is Sleeping Giant, but this is not his best side. You can still make him out, though. His head is the tallest lump and his feet are pointed toward the building, almost to the tree. Do you see him?

This is Blaine waving hello, who works at the post office and is so very nice. All the Kapaa post office staff are wonderful. If you win the next drawing, Blaine will probably be stamping your package "Do Not Bend."

Thanks for tagging along, I enjoyed your company. Perhaps next time, I can take you to somewhere else more exciting, like the Wailua Mini-Mart or the Kauai DMV! Hee hee...and you thought Kauai was just all beaches and breathtaking vistas....