Sunday, September 28, 2014

Crafting Apocalypse?

It's been sort of a wild few days around here.  Wednesday was a good friend's birthday, and she and her sister (whose birthday was last month) were going to be here on Thursday, and I was so pleased with the ukulele pillow AND both of them also play the ukulele, so I decided they each needed a pillow, and was working madly to get them done for Thursday. 

My embroidery software gives me the option to import text files from my computer, but it doesn't guarantee that they will work well.  In fact,
 while I was able to struggle through to get the text to come out on the first pillow, it ate a hole in the second one:
I knew this text had been a HUGE pain on the very first pillow, but I liked how it looked well enough to try to baby it through two more designs.  I am SO sorry to see the end of this particular fabric.  I think it was something cheap I bought when I first started sewing, but it's been great to work with for bags and pillows, and was a perfect nondescript tweedy-stone color that went with everything.  Some part of me keeps insisting it was $2 a yard on clearance somewhere, but that's probably the same part that always wants me to buy ALL the sale fabric just in case.  Obviously, I listen to that little voice WAY more than I should. 

Last week I had picked up a new neutral home decorating fabric (also on clearance, but at $5 a yard, not two). but to be on the safe side, I decided to redo the font.  Which is when I managed to delete the entire lettering tab from my embroidery software.  Entire page--just gone.  Not on the drop down menu, not moved, not an option to reselect--Totally and utterly GONE.  I even had Andy check.  He tried running a repair on the software, which did nothing, so finally we had to remove the program and reinstall it entirely.  Once the software was reloaded and I was running through the set up, Andy asked me if there was anything else I needed help with, I blithely answered "Nope, all good." and he took off for an evening run.  Now as you all know, nothing makes computers misbehave faster than the absence of the tech-savvy member of the family.  No sooner was he out of frustrated-crafter-screaming range than the stupid software decided that it couldn't find the little dongle that makes it run.  Husqvarna neither supports nor helps in any way with their software, but they want to make sure that THEY are the ones ripping you off and not a third party, so you have to have a dongle AND a software key to make sure that the software they don't even sell anymore wasn't given to you by someone who has decided that they are the devil and has gone over to Bernina.  I still had the dongle, but the computer couldn't find it.  On the one hand, it got me to dust all around the computer including the back and the power supply, but it couldn't find the dongle until I had changed ports and restarted the machine.  Andy had more fun on his run. 

Once I finally DID get the computer program working, I redid the design, burned it onto the card............and the machine wouldn't correctly read the card--it kept chirping and blinking two hoop sizes at me like it did when the circuit board that STARTED the whole repair nightmare with my machine started.  Almost sobbing, I emailed the new 2-hours-away dealer to say that my circuit board might be failing again, and since spare parts take 2-3 MONTHS for Husqvarna, would it be possible to preorder one.  Larry quickly emailed me back to say that he had the part on hand already.  MADE MY NIGHT.  If the part does go out, Larry will take care of it and I will cheerfully pay him because I know how much a good dealer is worth. 

Thursday morning, I finally got everything working and was able to get the second pillow made, 
and they were a huge hit.  Thank heavens.  And since I was on a crafting roll,
I finished the ribbon table runner!  It has issues (don't we all?), but I am really pleased with how it turned out.  I did something totally not symmetrical!!!!!!!!!!!!!   This is very, very big for me.  I'm not sure if anyone else would like it, but I love it. 

Today,
in spite of the rather vivid new colors for my embroidery designs, Jeeves and I made the first Santa bag!
And Jeeves didn't have a single issue.  I made mistakes, of course, and my little sidekick
ditched me when he deemed the swearing too severe, but Jeeves worked perfectly.  Fingers crossed that it was all just a problem with the software reload.  If I have to pay someone, no one deserves it more than Larry, but it would be nice to not need a circuit board for a few more years.  Then I could buy some new feet from Larry instead....................................

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Finished Projects!

Yesterday I had a really bad cough and my lungs were so congested that they hurt, so I had a Knitting Day.  While I can't recommend the circumstances,
I did get the chemo cap done.  I hate to admit how much of a boost the new yarn has given me because I'd still like to earn that 2-year badge, but having some quick projects has been nice.  In fact,
I forgot to photograph this one.  It was kind of fun, and part of me kept thinking, wow, I could make great Christmas tree garlands out of this stuff, but I'm going to leave well enough alone.  The shelves make things easier to access but in some ways reduced the amount of space in the sewing room, so the big push is still to use up stuff, not add stuff.  I'm still thinking of getting back on the sheep on January 1 to try for the 2-year badge, but this time I'm really going to think it over between now and then, and add a bit of yarn for small projects.  I'll be climbing onto the fabric wagon as well, though I want to locate the pieces for that tree wall hanging pattern first.
I have the feeling it will take me more than a couple tries to get that right, so maybe aim for a few seasons?  

Sunday I finished two embroidered towels,
 and am finishing another set this morning while I have my coffee,
so I am not just caught up on projects, but I am finally AHEAD!  I might actually finish all 100 projects for this year!

I finally added one more orange ribbon to the fall ribbon runner,
which helped break up the brown.  I'm going to bind it in solid black as nothing else I have really works.  Overall, I'm pleased with it.  It's not symmetrical, which is a really big thing for me.  If I had it to do over, I'd probably not use batting but just a still interfacing or fusible fleece.  But this was a pretty big departure for me, and I'm pleased with the result and the fact that I actually did it.  Were it not for the 100-finished-projects goal, I would have started this, been a bit indecisive about how to do it, and set it aside partially done.  But having a Finished Objects goal really helps me overcome that, so I'm thinking of doing it again next year.  Maybe 101...................

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Finishing Friday and Sewing Sunday

I had an actual Finishing Friday this week!  I crafted almost all day and
finished something!!!!!  They still need to be washed to get rid of the stabilizer, but the stockings are DONE!  Considering that the cuff is made of a stretchy velour I bought last year, I'm very proud that I was able to finish them in spite of the craziness of a stretchy, rolling plush fabric.  I am thinking about using the velour for the edging on the matching tree skirt as well, but I've set that aside for a bit to give myself a chance to recover from this part.

That took most of the day, but I did get fabric prepped to start playing with this
 The background fabric is deep stash and I think is from my old house, so 8 years.  I saw a ribbon table runner on Pinterest for Halloween, and that gave me the idea for a fall ribbon runner.  The original pinner didn't have batting or a backing and just stuck ribbon down with fusible webbing, but I've never had good luck with that stuff surviving the wash, so I wanted to do it a bit differently.  Ribbon is heavy, so it was either use a heavier fabric as the background or use batting or interfacing.  I played around with ribbon layouts, but got distracted last night by the arrival of this:
My new ruffler!!!!!!!!!  Really, have you ever seen a more terrifying piece of sewing equipment?  Thank heavens it came with instructions.  Not great instructions, but after some time with poor instructions and quite a bit of test fabric, I was ready to roll!  Or, ruffle..........

 Having Husqvarna and Bernina machines, my options for a ruffler were to get the brand-name machine-specific feet for $100+, or find a decent one that will work with the Bernina adapter.  It's one of the best things about the Bernina.  Husqvarna specifically doesn't work with anyone else's feet, or I should say, hardly anyone else's feet as the binding foot does work.  As fast as they now want people to upgrade machines, Husqvarna feet are very pricey and very risky because not all Husqvarnas use the same feet and accessories.  Mine take a style "6" or "7" (I always have to look up which), which means that there are styles 1-5 (at least) that flat out won't work on my machine.  Bernina has expensive feet too, but they are broken down into "old" style (which includes my machine) and "new" style, which includes the computerized machines.  That made it a bit easier anyway, but then they made an adapter, which allows me to use most low-shank feet on the Bernina.  THAT has been wonderful, and just saved me around $75.  

At first I was a bit dismayed to find that the ruffler had a guide on the right which didn't give me enough space to go down the center of a 3-inch fabric strip,
but once I scrunched it up a bit, I could stitch right down the center.  I marked all the strips with yellow chalk for a stitching line, then just went slowly so I could scoot the fabric on the right through the guide as I went, and still managed to crank through 6 garlands
in less time than it took me to do the first one.  I've attached white organza ribbon to each end, reinforced the stitching, and they are ready to be fluffed!  Which left me time today for
the stitching of the ribbon table runner!  The fabric pulled a bit, so I think I'm going to have to call this "finished" with the ribbon part because now that it's a bit skewed I won't be able to add more ribbon easily, but I could add single decorative stitch "ties" in a few places, maybe in a nice variegated fall rayon embroidery thread.  Or should I just move on to the edging and call it good?  Think it looks like "enough?"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

IT CAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Luckily it was while I was busy making lunch, otherwise I might have attacked our mailman.  You have no IDEA how exciting new yarn is after almost two years.

The resupply for chemo caps:
which it would be nice to not really need, but sadly, the only way to stop from having friends get cancer is to stop having friends.  Next best thing:  Be Prepared!

And the "splurge" for me:
a linen & cotton blend laceweight.  I was just thinking a white shawl would be very handy to have, so that's what this will be.  I would have cast on for the shawl as soon as the box arrived, but
the current lace shawl just has 6 pattern repeats and 20 rows of garter for the border to go, so I am obsessed with it.  A finished knitting project--won't that just be a shock around here?

It was a big day for me with the mail.  The next ornament kit arrived,
 and these are thankfully a bit different than the bead & sequined ones of the last few shipments.  The picture for the club had several of this type of ornament, so I'm excited to see these.  And this is a kit of SIX ornaments.  We're no longer keeping track of how far behind I am. 

 Thinking it would be a fast & easy project, I started the ruffled scarf today,
and was properly humbled by a Red Heart yarn.  I struggled so much with this scarf at first that I briefly tried the crochet version.  By the way, in case anyone else wants to try this stuff, the written instructions on Red Heart's website are a bit less than helpful.  What they DON'T mention is that you need to skip a loop between each stitch in order to get the ruffle.  Oh, and use wooden needles because this stuff is SLICK and if your metal needle slips out and hits the floor, trying to pick up the stitches with this crazy yarn will send you right onto the floor alongside your wayward needle.  Trust me.  Because I needed a little ego redemption AND because I've never had a yellow in this yarn before,
I did start a chemo cap, and only spent 30 minutes looking for my smaller circular needle before discovering it's currently in use by a WIP I'd forgotten about.  Some days, it's been longer...........

I tallied it up, and even counting the big behemoth ball of crochet cotton, I did not purchase more yarn than I've knit this year.  After almost two years, it could have happened, and I would like to pick up a few more things before climbing back onto the sheep, but I'm going to wait until the first of the year to climb back on, I think.  The ability to buy yarn seems to be giving my knitting a pretty serious boost right now, and I'm going to milk it just a bit...........

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And I'm Off The Sheep!

Yesterday I received an email from my favorite online yarn store saying they were changing their business model and would be selling through Amazon now, and that any outstanding credits not used by November would be lost.  I have had a $50 credit there that I've been watching carefully.  Had I known that I was going to try for 2 years without buying yarn, I would have used it before starting, but I wasn't sure I could make it even a YEAR of stone-cold sheeping.  In all fairness, I could have waited until November 1 and hoped that something I wanted was left, but I didn't want to be buying yarn just to buy yarn (when did THAT happen?), and they are my source for the yarn for chemo caps, and they've been changing their yarn lines and I'm not sure that one will make the cut.  So yesterday morning I used my credit to resupply for chemo caps, and ended my not-buying -yarn streak at:

1 year, 10 months, and 14 days

Oddly, I'm not as upset at missing the 2-year badge as one might think.  I'd really debated about going on after the gold badge because I knew I needed to use the credit soon, so the extra time was just a bonus.  AND I have enough yarn to try again, though I'm going to wait a little before starting.  Since I'm off the sheep, there are a few things I actually need.  Such as,
White and off-white cheap Red Heart acrylic.  Can you believe it?  The last Mr. Flurry used up my last white acrylic yarn, and while I was certainly not going to break a streak for that, I do like to have it on hand.  And, since it's the new fad, I did pick up a skein of the new ruffle yarns,
I'm sure it's the new Fun Fur, but I did have to try that back in the day as well.  And, perhaps the Cold Sheeping has taught me something after all, because I ended up with a stash of Fun Fur when it was big.  It was even on sale and I only bought one skein of this stuff to try.  Could that be a sign of maturity about yarn finally?

And,
a 2730-yard monster ball of crochet cotton in "natural."  All my life I've wanted to knit a tablecloth, so now I'm going to.  I hadn't decided if I wanted it in the tiny stuff or wanted to use up the larger stuff I'd purchased years ago for an earlier attempt, but now I've decided that I'll use the bigger stuff to make a lace Christmas tree garland and use this stuff for the tablecloth.

So, I didn't go crazy.  There are still things I want to get--some green wool fingering yarn to use on the knitted ball ornaments, a little bit of fingering yarn for lace scarves for gifts, and maybe something nice to play with--like a silk-blend lace or fingering weight for me.  Nothing too major, as I still have a lot of yarn and haven't finished much in the last 2 years.  Then back on that sheep again!  And, going forward, I'll do so without the temptation of that yarn company.  I'm sure their new direction will still be good, but from what I've seen on Amazon, one will now only be able to buy their yarns in bags of 10 or 5 skeins, and odds are fairly high that I won't be tempted by that.  So it's going to be good for my stash in the future.  But I have to say, it feels really, really, REALLY nice to be able to buy yarn if I wanted to.  I'm sorry I didn't know I'd be ending my streak while we were in Victoria.  I would have liked some souvenir yarn.  Oh well.  I got a souvenir ornament pattern,
which I'm obviously enjoying AND using up fabric.

In other news, I had a great birthday on Saturday.  I even had a real Finishing Friday, so
I designed and embroidered fall towels for the downstairs bathroom.  I had every season but fall.  Have I mentioned lately how glad I am I bought that thread chest?  While the towels were in progress, I laid out the labels for some Santa Bags I want to make:
I want to add something like "Elf manufacturing, North Pole" or something to that effect, and maybe "Do not open until December 25."  There are some really cute versions on Etsy, but I don't have digitizing capability, so I can't make designs--I can only combine things.  But I think they'll be fun.  I'm going to make them out of red and white felt, I think.  I want them to be sturdy enough to be used and, frankly, use up something in stash.  :)

Saturday morning I opened up my birthday box I packed last year, and found a book
 which I didn't remember buying.  It's used, and until this year I've always considered Ruth Rendell a safe bet as I like her mysteries, but the last book of hers I listened to, The Bridesmaid, was a huge slog to get through and not anything I enjoyed.  So, let's hope for better.  Speaking of better, the yarn in the box was
 To celebrate our 100-projects-finished year in 2010, RobinH sent me 5 skeins of this lovely squishy yarn, which I made into a shrug.  Later, I found an entire bag of this available on Little Knits on sale and snagged it.  Wearing the shrug always made me think it would be a really great sweater, and now it's going to be.  I meant to cast on immediately, but Andy was arranging a party for that night and my parents came down for a late celebration on Sunday, so there wasn't really any knitting time.  I did, however,
 pack up the birthday box for next  year.  Just think, if I didn't have such a crazy stash, I might remember what was in it when I pulled it out next year.................:)

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Have Walked 18 Miles This Week!!!!!!!!

Which explains why there is no crafting update..............

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Toni in Wonderland

So the new allergy drugs make me sleepy.  I feel like Alice in Wonderland with the cake and mushrooms and whatever else she took to make her grow and shrink.  Mercifully, none of them have made me grow as I really don't need that.  But today I am trying the scary-hyper drugs during the day and the sleepy steroid nose spray at night.  It will reduce the effectiveness of the steroid, but it also took the steroid a while to make me sleepy, so I'm hoping to get a break from that as well.

Crafting goes a bit slower when one is sleepy, but there are a couple new lace ornaments,
 the kimono shawl is now more than half way done,
YAY!  The icky yarn has been delivered to our local branch library, I have cut out fabric strips for new kimono ornaments,
tried to do some laundry,
and decided to try out the fabric garland pattern.  I swear that the fact that it sounded like a quick project that would add 4 yards to my tally had nothing to do with it..............Or if it did, I have been justly punished for such an idea.

 I started off well.  I have a wavy wheel for my rotary cutter, and while I cannot use it in conjunction with my rulers, it was actually far easier to draw faint lines with yellow chalk and cut along the line anyway.  It makes a nice effect,
 and hopefully stops raveling. 

In the directions, before the designer got the ruffler, she gathered them by hand, so putting two strips together,
 I started gathering by hand.  Did I mention I am not great at hand sewing?
Yep--that's blood.  I stabbed myself in the thumb.  But being as accident-prone as I am, this would not be the first bloodshed during decorating as there was a spectacular incident with my last real Christmas tree that involved 5 stitches.  After I quit bleeding, I continued to speed along until my thread broke.  I had the thread doubled over, but I was using the Coats & Clark thread that won't work in my machine, and apparently hand sewing is too much for it as well.  I tied it off, rethreaded and tried again, making it only a little way before the thread broke a second time.  I know it isn't the best thread on the market, but seriously????? 

Putting that garland away for its own safety, last night after a day of cleaning and putting up fall decorations, I decided to try a different methodInitially I was going to just zigzag over a piece of cotton crochet thread, but I didn't want the weight of the thread added to the garland, so instead I dug out my multi-cord foot.
Sorry it's such a bad picture, but the foot has 7 holes in it, and by threading some of the dratted Coats and Clark thread through two of them and improvising a way for everything to spin freely without being all over the floor,
 I stitched two of the pieces together by zigzagging over the top of the thread.  I had a VERY proud moment at the end when I remembered to tie a knot in the C&C threads so they wouldn't come unthreaded when I was finished. 
 Just two threads isn't such a big deal, but I have used it with all 7, and most of the day was spent threading the darn thing. 

 That worked pretty well for gathering, though I had a bit of a hard time with the next step.  She had satin stitched across the top to secure the ruffle.  I tried a bit more of a zigzag, which of course did not work.  In the end, I just stitched 3 straight lines and called it good.  Mine is not nearly as pretty as hers, but then again, I'm not trying to sell them either.  Finally,
I have a finished garland!  After the fluffing (which is when one understands why there are TWO fabric strips), I am pleased with how it came out.  I still need to add ties of some sort, but I needed a bit of a break.  I'm already thinking of doing a set of these in two shades of green for spring--which of course, I don't already have and which would not use anything in the fabric stash.  I think I see a chance for a bribe here...................

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Party Planning in the Days of Autocorrect..........

(tonight, via text messaging)

Andy:  Greg said Frank is in town, and will bring him along to your body party, if you would like.


Toni:  I didn't know it was a body party.  Toning or burying?

Andy:  Which goes best with pizza?

Toni:  Probably burying, since I think pizza is Sicilian...............

And We're Down From The Ceiling!

Seriously, has anyone ever taken 12-hour Sudafed without knowing that it was a stimulant?  It's one of the drugs you have to buy from the pharmacist because people use it to make meth--which is surprising as the last thing I would have thought anyone would want to do was to INTENSIFY the feeling of just plain old Sudafed.  So, being a foolish person who tends to believe that over the counter drugs are relatively harmless, I took Sudafed for 48-hours before I finally went to the doctor for something less scary for allergies.  It's not quite as silly as it sounds--the first night I couldn't sleep, I assumed it was just because I had taken Nyquil for 3 nights in a row before that, and that usually would make it hard for me to sleep the next night.  But the following night when I was exhausted but ready to repaint the bedroom at 3:00 AM, I did figure things out, and have stashed away the rest of the scary Sudafed until maybe a future Christmas where I am stupid enough to still be trying to finish gifts at 2:00 AM on Christmas eve...........

Once I stopped shaking, I pulled out the very last spring table runner to finish,
and I have to say, the walking foot and I are almost friends.  Almost.  I wasn't actually sorry to put it away, but I feel like I know how to use it at least.  Since I had prepped some practice material, I also practiced my stippling,
which was better free-hand than when I was trying to follow lines.  Maybe the "free-motion guide foot" would be better for trying to follow lines.  I need a bit of practice.

Andy is putting together a small party for my birthday next weekend, and we're doing Make Your Own Pizza.  I have wanted to make a chalk board table runner, so I thought this would be the perfect reason to finally get it done.

Nancy's Notions had a "special" where if you ordered two yards of chalkboard fabric, you received the project book
 for "free."  Since their chalkboard fabric is twice what it is at Joann's, it's not actually THAT much of a deal, but I thought the fabric would be tricky to use and wanted some directions.

The BEST thing about the project is that at least I didn't try it while on speed.

I don't know if I was still a bit fuzzy or what the problem was, but I didn't find the directions in the little booklet all that clear, so I found the program on Youtube:
That helped, but they showed the runner being made in small scale.  What they did NOT cover, then, was how in the heck to work with a 47-inch stiff, heavy, and remarkably awkward piece of chalkboard fabric.  And, to make matters even more fun,
 they didn't explain how to get the big honking CREASES out of the fabric which are there because they folded the chalkboard fabric for shipping, and the suggested warm-iron-on-the-back-using-a-press-cloth method is no match for the creases from shipping.  After ironing it TWICE, you can see how much of the crease was still left. 

Interestingly, the fabric has to be "cured" before it can be used,
 which involves rubbing it with a piece of chalk and while I used regular chalk sticks and NOT sidewalk chalk (which doesn't work apparently), the chalk left scratches in the chalkboard fabric even when rubbing the chalk on its side as instructed, and they're apparently permanent.  And the chalk doesn't completely come off, even after several wipes with a damp cloth. 

You've heard of pet shaming?  Meet project shaming:
But we have a chalkboard table runner.  And it is an only child. 

There is NOTHING like a frustrating project to prompt me to throw things away (or just throw them), so this morning I dug out my Red Heart acrylic stash and dumped all the colors I won't use again:
For years, I knit Christmas stockings for people when they got married, and while I dislike Red Heart acrylic for almost anything else, it really is good for Christmas stockings and Christmas ornaments.  The rough, scratchy nature that I dislike so much is perfect for crafts, so I've always hung onto it, and I did use it to make afghans many, many years ago, so I had some leftover yarn from that.  Well, I am probably never going to make an afghan again--I just donated all of mine to a charity shop.  And, while I might still make Christmas stockings, I have never made the bear-patterned stocking and am seriously unlikely to do so at this point, so I don't need any brown.  I can't even remember why I have the peach yarn, so the 12 skeins in the cardboard box are finding a new home.  And later this afternoon I might take some of the survivors and sit outside in a lawn chair and knit some more mitten ornaments....

In the meantime, I have started cutting out the new Christmas stockings,
 and would be much farther along if someone weren't napping on my lining fabric:
 He's such a big help.

Being too big of a softie to move him, I decided just to keep cutting.  I have strips ready for a set of 4 kimono ornaments, and
decided to play around with some fabric garland ideas.  Eventually, I want to make some of these, and I swear it isn't just because I want a ruffler--though, of course, I do.  But I'll be making the first ones by hand just to make sure I like them.  However, thinking about it, I thought one could also use the same technique to make large rosettes/flowers for the tree (or maybe centerpieces?).  I couldn't remember how tight I could get ruffles by changing my differential feed on the serger, so I tried out two 3-inch strips to see what happened.  Initially what happened was finding out that I have sewn so little in the last couple years that I couldn't remember how to change anything on the serger, so the serger workbook and I spent some quality time together, and while I did get it to work, to try out the rosettes I'll need to pull them by hand as the above ruffles are as tight as the serger goes.  However, I thought these were rather fun, and am now thinking about lowering the differential feed a bit for a slightly more relaxed ruffle, and making a garland that way.  What do you think?  I used my wavy blade for the outside edges to reduce the raveling, though I could always finish the edges with a rolled edge.  Or I could kick Theo off my ironing board and try the other garland first...........