Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Everyone!!!! Everyone who commented on the "Can Anyone Explain This" post, that is! Some new people, some loyal could I choose! You will each be receiving the same prize (no you don't have to share one prize among you--I mean each of you will receive your own) newly revised Sunset Palms Cutwork Applique Pattern!

Originally issued in 1999, and with only a few sold, I pulled the pattern--no specific reason. Today, I have reworked the pattern, including some digital photos and detailed instructions for transferring the design from freezer paper to fabric, basting, and the correct way to clip and applique your way to a beautiful wallhanging.

Don't know how to applique? This may spur you to learn.

My sample is done in batiks--I love the denser fabric for applique, especially on those inside points.

Here's a close-up. This is perfect with a dark fabric for the trees and a sunny (sunset) looking fabric for the background. In the above photo you can see that I used an asymmetrical border treatment.

So here's what you need to do to claim your prize. Email me at with your snail mail address. For those of you that I will be seeing in class in the next couple weeks, I will hand deliver them. I am including Jay and Kathleen as winners; Jay emailed me privately with his...ahem...comments and Kathleen commented about the sweater, just on a different post. It's good to be queen--I can make the rules--but you are all winners! How can anyone argue with those kind of rules? (Okay, I'm sure someone will.)

I have been quilting another project and am over half done (it will eventually be my third finish this year) and the backing fabric for the secret project is on its way from Colorado as we speak.

Happy end of February and beginning of March, everyone!


P.S. I am reading The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle. Her prior book The Kindness of Strangers was thought-provoking and unsettling. Check them both out.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hand Quilting To Go Bag

Still apparently under a dark cloud, it has taken me two days to download these pictures. Suffice it to say, yada, yada, yada...moving on.

I'm sure you are surprised to know that I have a separate hand quilting to go bag! I use somewhat different tools and have designated this lovely Vera Bradley Bitty Betsy bag for those. It has a lovely fob, with a flamingo--no, Jay, you can't have it!

This bag holds a ton of stuff. (But my wallet won't fit in it! Go figure!)

Here's what we have: Starting at the 12:00 position and working in no particular order from there: A needle keeper with chile pepper fabrics (a gift), another(!) pair of Elan scissors with a point protector, another used needle holder, two pencil sharpeners (one blue, one pink), two spools of Mettler 40 wt. thread, a relatively inexpensive thimble (in case I don't have my TJ Lane one on me), a Clover white chacoliner, a dime (I have a frequently used stencil that needs a dime for the center circle), a Hera marker, a 1 x 6 inch ruler, Richard Hemming Betweens size 10 in a Roxanne's glass container, a hand needle threader, a container with sharpened markers in it (more on this below), and the Clover White Marking Pen. My 1/4 inch masking tape is usually also included, but mine had gotten too sticky and made a quick trip to the trash bin.

By keeping all these tools assembled in this tote, I can pick a project, chose the appropriate thread colors, put it all in a bigger tote and be out the door. I've found that hand quilting is the perfect portable project because there is nothing to fall off, pins to migrate, etc. You know that as soon as you get an applique or hand piecing project set up on your lap, your name is called. And you know that no matter how long you have waited, you need to move now or they will call the next person. With hand quilting, I simply park my needle, throw everything in my tote and am across the room before they can call my name again!

I don't know about you, but I have a strange aversion to having my markers write on the inside of my bags--it's probably a personal problem, but just in case any of you are like-minded, let me explain the solution. I had an empty container that soapstone refills came in. It has a folded piece of paper to keep the soapstone sticks from crashing into each other and breaking. So, I took silver and white Verithin pencils, plus two soapstone sticks, sharpened them and then placed them in the container. The lid keeps everything secure--and there is no unauthorized marking of the inside of my bags. If you don't have a container like this--use a toothbrush holder! It works great and comes in wonderful, fun colors.

So there you have it. Of course, you could just put the markers and tools from the hand quilting to go bag in your hand piecing to go bag. But then you have to dig for the right stuff and it's not nearly so much fun as buying enough stuff for another to go bag! So here's a recap--one set for home, one set for hand piecing on the go, and yet another set for hand quilting on the go! (I've saved the best for last--soon you will see my industrial to go container--too much stuff for a bag!)

And here's another hint--for you--you know who you are! The top is done, but I have to get more backing--can you believe I found the perfect fabric--and didn't get enough! That's what happens when you buy before you know how big something is going to be! (This hint is significantly larger than life!)

Okay, enough for now. Winner(s) will be posted tomorrow. (I bet you thought I'd forgotten!)


P.S. I am listening to The Professional and Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker.

P.P.S. Remember that you can find a more detailed post about the markers I use in the January section.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There's Hope

After one of the last big storms, snow was actually stuck to the window in my sewing room--and it was heavy enough that it slid down the pane and made "puckers".

Here you can just see through the snow--see the spruce trees and the red birdhouse?

But today I heard my first Phoebe, saw a pair of house finches looking at a nesting site, AND saw my first flock of robins! I think it's still a bit early to hope for the peepers, but there are signs that spring might actually get here. But I guess not this week--Thursday night they are predicting yet more snow, sleet and rain. I'm trying very hard to remember that it is only February--but this winter seems absolutely endless.

I've been doing a bit of applique today and finished one sock and started its mate. I'm listening to "The Emperor's Tomb" by Steve Berry.

We'll get back to the to-go bags soon. I still have my industrial sized one and my hand quilting one to share. Yes, I'm afraid that does mean you may actually need a THIRD set of some of those wonderful tools. Stay tuned!



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's in Your Wallet?

Okay, not really your wallet! Although there are some guild members near Rochester who know what to put in their wallet! Anyways, do you all have "to-go" bags? I actually have a couple for personal use and will show you my "industrial class size" one perhaps tomorrow.

My original one is housed in a Vera Bradley jewelry case. This one was a special gift from a friend. The fob was made by another friend and has a heart-in-hand design to denote "handwork" bag! When you unzip it...voila!

But...wait for gets better!

This bag is deceptively small looking, but has a ton of storage! Look what was inside:

Five spools of 50 wt. cotton thread in neutral colors.

A small wool pincushion.

Small glass head pins for hand piecing. See the cute jar with the little cork? Little House pins--love them, have them in all six colors--and then they stopped making them. So covet them--but enjoy them from afar.

Pigma pens for marking seams on those hard to mark fabrics. WARNING: Never use a pigma pen on a light colored fabric--it will bleed through.

A .5 mechanical pencil--for marking those light fabrics.

A 6 inch C-Thru ruler to get the most accurate seam lines.

Thread Heaven.

Quilter's Quarter Marker ruler, for those times you need a dot at strange intersections. (Also excellent when binding unusual angles.)

Elan serrated scissors, with a fob to match the "to-go" bag one!

A Clover seam ripper--never leave home without a ripper!

John James Sharps size 11 needles.

Being an extra-lucky girl, I was gifted this fabulous bag recently. So I have made myself a second to-go bag. It includes the markers and rulers shown in the original bag, plus a used needle container, a small threader, snips instead of scissors, a pincushion made by another friend, and a turquoise bear talisman (also a gift). And another fob, also a gift--from the same friend who made me the others! Did I mention how lucky I am?

Here's the deal, dear blog readers: Once you have your to-go bag ready, you MAY NOT pilfer from it. You know how it is--your scissors are upstairs, across the room--anywhere but where you are sitting. You look around and spy your to-go bag--right next to you! You think "just this once I'll use these scissors and I'll put them right back." And what happens? The next time you pick up your to-go bag and get set to cut threads or some applique seams, while away from home (remember the to go part of this?), you have no scissors. That's right--they are right where you left them--next to your chair, AT HOME! So sad--yes, you will hear me saying "Tsk tsk! Didn't I tell you not to pilfer?"

And guess what? You can print out this blog and show it to whomever asks: This is your permission slip to purchase duplicate items to make your to-go bag! You need it--you want it--you're worth it!

And the best part? When you are rushing out the door, knowing you are going to have to wait for something to happen, you can grab a project, add thread to match and be out the door, ready to make good use of the wait time.

Sharon, the lucky girl with talented, generous friends

P.S. Thanks to those who have responded to the knitting blog. And entered the contest! If you aren't sure what this all means, go to the post dated February 21 and find out.

P.P.S. Elaine--you are the bomb! When you explained it that way, it made perfect sense. How hard would that have been for the designer to say? I took another look at the pattern--and, face red, realized that I had a post-it note marking my place on the neck increases. Flipping it up and down looking for an explanation did not reveal the numbers hidden under it--until your comments told me where to look. I can't thank you enough. I just love the sweater--and will now continue it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Can Anyone Explain This?

Probably about a year ago I bought beautiful yarn and started a top down sweater. Life intervened and I put it down--without marking which size I was working on! While trying to figure that out, I noticed that the number of stitches and increases were the same for both size medium and large. Imagine the consternation that ensued. Well, Barb, my knitting guru, told me to always check for corrections before starting a big project, so off to the website I went. This is what unfolded:

After not finding an answer in FAQs or under errata, I emailed the designer. Here's what I said (I have copied emails to and from the designer verbatim):

"Hi! I started the neckdown pullover, and have a question. I wanted to make the large size, but noticed that all but one number for the instructions are exactly like the medium (the length of the sleeve). Is this in error? I have stopped knitting until I can be sure which size to use. I know the extra-large will be too big. I appreciate any help you can give. I love the sweater and have fabulous yarn to make it with. Thank you for any help you can give me. I have looked at the errata page and the frequently asked questions and did not find an answer there."

She promptly replied: "Hello Sharon, No, there is not an error there. The numbers are correct as written. I hope you measured a garment that fits the way you like to decide which size to make. Directions for this are on my FAQ page."

To which I replied: "Thank you for the quick response. I'm still not sure how knitting with the same size needles on the same number of stitches will yield two different size sweaters. But I will give it a try. I'm not afraid to rip out and start over. Thanks again! Sharon ".

Then this came: "Sorry you didn't like my answer, but I can't give a lesson in design in an email. That sweater has been knit hundreds of times since it was published in 1997, but of course you can change it any way you like if you don't think it is correct."

And I finished with: "No offense was meant! I was just trying to understand--which I guess is a personal problem. As someone who is not a knitting designer and depends on pattern accuracy, I have learned from more experienced knitters that it is better to check for corrections before getting too far into a pattern. Sorry to have bothered you. Sharon".

Am I too stupid to knit? Can anyone explain to me (very, very simply...and probably very, very slooooowwwwwlllllyyyy) how one can knit with the same yarn, the same gauge, the same needles on the same number of stitches and get two different size sweaters? My mind simply will not wrap around this. I know in quilting I cannot get two different size quilts if I use the same pattern, the same size squares and the same seam allowance. Why is knitting different?

And, no, I won't tell you who the designer is. But apparently it is someone well-known in the knitting world. Oh, the finished chest sizes are 38, 42, 46, 50 and 54. The 46 and 50 have the same number of stitches. And it's a top down raglan--in case any of that info helps explain. This has bothered me since Saturday so I decided to take it to the blog (like the cloud, only better) and see if anyone can help.

On a more pleasant note, on Friday, when the weather actually looked like spring might come, I got to ride--bareback! After attempting to mount with no saddle and while standing on a 5 gallon pail, we can safely assume that middle age white women cannot jump! Or at least I can't! When told that I would probably do better if I would stop laughing (this as I was half on and half off!), I only laughed harder...go figure!

And, this is my 300th post! So anyone leaving a comment on THIS post between now and 9:00 pm EST, Friday, February 25, will be entered into a drawing for a not-yet-determined prize. Don't worry, I'll make it something worthwhile!

Something cool is being planned for tomorrow's post--so don't look away!


Sunday, February 13, 2011


Greetings from the frozen north! It's hard to find anyone who is still excited about winter. Shivering, shoveling, snowblowing--the trifecta of winter weather.

Here are a few snaps of the icicles outside my sewing room window.

And this is a teaser for someone who shall remain anonymous--at least until I do the reveal. Stay tuned for updates!

Lynnie is doing better. Callie is fine. And I have a sock past the gusset decreases. Also a quilt top in progress for another day's viewing. Believe it or not, I actually went through and straightened out most of the stash on Friday--and even have several pieces to give away! Plus I found a bunch of pieces I just love for various reasons--but had forgotten about. So I pulled them out, plan to wash and press them and display them prominently.

All those in favor of ending winter on Monday, February 14, 2011, at 12:01 am, please signify by saying "Aye". I'm sure the vote carried. Those of you who voted "Nay" can come shovel my drive!


P.S. I am listening to 61 Hours by Lee Child and The Athena Project by Brad Thor. Reading The Man Who Listens to Horses by Monty Roberts (non-fiction). All are excellent!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Second Finish and a Surprise

The plan was to post this finish a few days ago--when I really did finish it. But Lynnie has had one full seizure and the precursor symptoms for the past two days. Lynnie trumps the blog. It was January 17, 2010, when she had the only other seizure. At the first symptom I shut off all the lights and anything that makes noise. Except for the first one this time, it has been working. Knock on wood. The vet said we may have to put her on anti-seizure meds if this continues.

Have I said lately how much I hate winter weather? Not so much the weather as trying to determine if classes should run based on a weather forecast. Trying to decide at 10 AM if we can all get home safely at 10 PM is tough. My psychic weather forecasting powers apparently have become dormant. Today, based on the dire predictions of at least five more inches of snow and the possibility of sleet, I postponed my evening class. Only to have, at least at my house, absolutely nothing. For those of you reading the blog and wondering about First Tuesday, it will be on Wednesday, February 9, still 6-9. (If you didn't understand that, don't worry--you probably live too far away to be affected.)

Okay, on to funner stuff! My second finish is All Points. Hand appliqued and set in 2008, basted in 2009. Hand quilted and bound in 2011. My original papercut design. And, no, the inner border points do not touch the binding. I wanted it that way so that the entire design floats. The spaces are, I assure you, very evenly away from the binding.

A detail of a corner. You can see a bit of the quilting design.

And the center. The backing is the same pink batik as the background. Hand quilted with 30 wt. Sulky variegated thread.

Is "unexpected surprise" an oxymoron? If not, it should be! Yesterday when I got home I found a package on my porch. When I opened it I found:

The Sara Gruen books are among my favorites and I was recently thinking about reading them again. I had been getting them from the library--now I don't have to! And quilting and knitting magazines to boot! Thank you, my friend, for your thoughtfulness. I miss you lots.

Janet asked about a marker for light fabrics: I use the Prismacolor Verithin pencil in #753 Metallic Silver. Used with a light hand and a sharp point, the marks are usually gone as you quilt over them. I've been using them since the 1980s! You can find them at some quilt shops or at art supply places. Just be sure they say Verithin on them. The other Prismacolor pencils have too much oil to come out easily (in my opinion).

That's all the news that's fit to print for now.


P.S. I am listening to Lying with Strangers by James Grippando and just finished My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline (non-fiction!). I'm reading a Monty Roberts horse book.