Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Needlework Tuesday - As Good As Finished

 I can finally breath a sigh of relief, this quilt is as good as finished needing only the binding.   I'll have to check my stash and see if I have a brown fabric that will work.

It measures about 61 inches on a side.

This quilt was fun to make.  I used a variety of templates from Marti Michell and made up the design from the middle out.

This quilt will find a home in our camper when that season arrives.
 One of my goals for this project was to practise my machine quilting.  I have such grand ideas in my head, but at present my skill level isn't there.  This quilt, with all the busy fabrics, gave me the opportunity  to play with a variety of designs.  I started with the tutorial  The Dizzy Daisy by Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt blog.   It is a combination of flowers and swirls/baptist fan motifs.
 The narrowest border, 1 inch, received a repeated swirl, inspired by the centre of the swirl/fans from the centre.  Show in the red/orange border at the right of the photo.  The next 2 inch border uses a motif that reminds me of corrugated cardboard.  It is easy to do and can be adapted to any width space.   Shown in the light green border on the left of the photo.

The middle row used just the swirl/fan of the Dizzy Daisy motif.

The tumbler border is 6 inches wide and this time I used the flowers from the centre.  There is a tutorial called Happy Blossoms. it was a bit tricky to get into the spaces, but with a few extra leaves added here and there, I was able to give a fairly consistent coverage. 

The final outer border gave me a bit of a challenge.  It was four inches wide, which would have been difficult to work with on my machine.  I first stitched a line, one inch from the previous border and added a row of swirls in that area.  Then I did the same corrugated cardboard motif, alternating it every three inches from horizontal to vertical.  Ignore the white chalk marks that I've yet to remove.

I did practise each motif on a separate piece of layered fabric before starting on the quilt.  Even with that, I did improve as the work progressed.  The hardest part of machine quilting is keeping the motifs at the same scale throughout the project.  Having a reference sample to refer to really helped.

Now that I have this completed, I am looking forward to my next quilt.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint

I LOVE THIS BOOK.  Yes, I used capital letters as I have raised my voice to ensure I have your attentions.  I have listened to the audio book at least three times, and I know I am not done with it yet.

Grace Quintero is a kick-ass young woman who knows what she wants out of life.  She is passionate about customizing classic cars and happily spends her evenings listening to rock-a-billy music.

On Halloween, she meets John Burns at the Solona Music Hall, and by the end of the night she realizes that she has met her soul mate.  If only she had met him two weeks earlier.

This story grabbed me from the opening paragraphs and won't let go.  I read it first almost three years ago, and it remains fresh in my mind.  I am haunted by this love that is meant to be.

Author Charles De Lint has vividly rated two characters who resonate with life.  Each appears very different from the other, yet they compliment each other so well.  John is a man in love and it seems to natural that he would explore those things that Grace holds so dear.

What really draws me to this story is that while they have seeming insurmountable obstacle to their love, they both search for ways they know must exist to bridge them.  Theirs is a love that is meant to be.

I listened to the unabridged audio book read by  Paul Michael Garcia and Tai Sammons 9 hours 51 minutes.

Cover image courtesy Blackstone Audio.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Ruby Red by Kertin Gier

Time travel books are one of my favourite genre.  I particularly enjoy reading how the travellers copes with his or her alternate time periods.  In this novel, Gwyneth Shepherd has known about such travel all her life, but had expected that her cousin Charlotte would be the traveller.    Author Kerstin Gier well conveyed Gwyn's confusion and displeasure when she realised that she would be the traveller instead.

Joining her in her travels is Gideon; he has been training his entire life for these adventures.  Unlike him, Gwyn will have to use her instincts to guide her through the different time periods that she visits.  She also has a unique gift that should prove helpful.

Gwyn and Gideon make an interesting pair.  He wants to do this travelling and Gwyn is as of yet ambivalent about it.  He has been trained in skills such as fencing and period dance while she hasn't.  Time will tell whether Gwyn's lack of training will be a hindrance or an asset in their future.

I can't decide whether I like Gideon or not.  He is very self assured, almost smug in his superiority over Gwyn.  I supposed that he would need that assurance when travelling into different time periods and unknown situations.  Like Gwyn, he has to decide who is telling the truth and what that means for them.  Will he be able to stand up and make his decision or will he blindly follow what he has been told by the privileged old men controlling them.

I love the descriptions of the clothing that has been carefully crafted for the two of them.  What good would a time travel story be without such wonderful outfits.  It helps to set the mood by understanding the challenges of 'fitting in' in the past.

I listened to the unabridged audio book read by Marisa Calin.  8 hours 50 minutes.  Ms. Calin helped bring life to the characters.  She particularly brought out the venom of Charlotte's  mother and the neglect of Gwyn's grandmother.

I felt that the book ended too soon.  There was so much time spent building the characters and the settings, then a few short events and it was over.  Fortunately the story continues in Sapphire Blue.

Translated by Anthea Bell

The Ruby Red Trilogy:
  1. Ruby Red
  2. Sapphire Blue
  3. Emerald Green

Cover image courtesy Macmillan  Publishers

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Needlework Tuesday - Permission to Practice

Years ago, I read a book called The Practice Effect by author David Brin.  I was fascinated by the concept of items starting out as low quality, and that only with constant use they became better.  Clothing started as rags and the more they were worn, the better quality they became.  Staff were hired to wear a wealthy man's clothing and use his goods to improve their value.  If you stopped using and item, it would slowly revert to it's previous, coarse state.

Science fiction right.  Maybe not quite.  Consider the skills that you have.  You obtained them through constant use and practice, if you don't use them, they become rusty and not as fluent.  The often cited example of never forgetting how to ride a bicycle does acknowledge that you might wobble a bit at first when you try riding again after many years of abstaining.

Needlework skills are much the same.  If you want them to improve, then you have to use them, repeatedly.  Not only using them, but practicing as well.  Yes, we need to practice.

You would never expect sporting professionals to not practice and only ever play in games.  They practice far more hours than they ever do spend hours in competition.  Most of the time, I never practice my needlework.  I am assuming that like most of you, my stitching time must produce an item.  Practicing is wasted time.  That is just not so. 

Athletes do warm up exercises, so should we.  I know hand quilters who keep a simple project, such as a pre-printed panel, to stitch on for a few minutes prior to working on a main project in order to limber up their fingers.  For knitters, a simple garter stitch scarf would serve the same purpose. Stiff fingers are awkward and result in uneven tensions.

Yesterday, I received and newsletter from quilter Leah Day and she talked about practicing.  I have included that video below.

I practice. I knit tension squares.  I stitch test blocks for quilts.  I often grumble when I do this, but I don't really begrudge the time spent as it has saved me from huge errors in the long run and has resulted in a better outcome. 
I have included several photos of my practice pieces for machine quilting.  It is two layers of fabric with batting in between and I use contrasting thread to practice new motifs again and again, until I am satisfied.  When it gets too hard to see the stitching, I add another layer of fabric on top and keep stitching.  With the different colours it doesn't matter is they overlap.
(you could also put a piece of batting inside and old pillow case and practice with that)
Only when I am satisfied, do I move to my actual quilt top.  I have no intentions of ever using these practice pieces for anything, they are just for practice.  If I didn't overlap the stitching, I could trim them to an appropriate size, add binding and use as place mats.
It doesn't matter that they might never be used for anything, what does matter is that I am practicing my skill and learning and improving my technique.  This makes me happy and I end up with a better quality finish for my project, which was my goal in the first place.  So give your self permission to practice your stitching and never consider it wasted time.
I want to improve my sock knitting skills.  Kate at the blog Arts and Socks pointed out a new free class at Craftsy  called Knit Along 2016 Socks. It's not for the beginner, though if you've knit one pair of socks you'd probably be able ready to attempt the lessons.  I've signed up, watched the first lesson and have my wool for the first pair.  I am looking forward to learning more about sock knitting so I can avoid the problems I've previously encountered.  Thanks Kate.
These socks will require more attention than television watching will permit, so I needed another project.  Several years ago, I bought the pattern Fast Forward by Canadian  designer Natalie Servant and  then it sat.  I finally purchased the wool last year and yet it sat.  Nothing like the present for getting started.

Here's where the practice comes in.  Following the pattern, I used 4mm needles and started. I had about eight inches knit and realised the tension was way too tight.  Ripped it out and started again using 4.5mm needles.  Still a bit too tight, rip again.  Now I am using 5mm needles and it's almost perfect.  Sure, it's a drag ripping back that much, but I knew that I'd not be satisfied if I didn't and it would have been a much stiffer scarf in the end.  Now it will be soft and almost cuddly.  I am using Cascade 220 Heather wool in colour 2425.   I purchased enough for a co-ordinating hat as well.

At the end of the day, and at the end of the project, I am glad that I spent the time in practicing which ever skill I utilised.  I end up with a better project and that makes me happy.  If I'm not happy doing my crafts/arts/needlework, then I am doing something very wrong.  For this week, I wish you all happy practice.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post, regardless of whether it is practice or not.

Cover image used courtesy of Penguin RandomHouse Canada.


Friday, 29 January 2016

The Program by Suzanne Young

The world of The Program is a scary one to imagine.  Teen suicide is rampant and parents are willing to go to extremes to protect their children.  The government has established The Program to save their children, but it exacts a steep price, their memories. 

Sloane lost her older brother two years ago, and the only thing that has kept her going is her boyfriend James.  Now he is at risk.

Author Suzanne Young depicts a desperate world where the teen suicide rate is extremely high.  The anxiety that the characters are feeling comes across clear and strong.  If they aren't depressed already, then the fear they feel about being taken into The Program could edge them into a downward spiral.

It was fairly easy to feel the surreal life that Sloan and her friends were living in.  Their every move and word was being watched.  Teens don't function well under that type of scrutiny even when things are going well.

I enjoyed all the twists and turns of this story.  Part One was quite bleak with despair.  From Pat Two onward, it was a different feeling, easier to read and even enjoy.

Sloane and James seemed like real people to me.  Their joys and sorrows were totally in keeping with the responses of seventeen year olds.  I was cheering them on the entire book.

While not a cheerful read, I could hardly put it down.

The story continues:
0.5 The Remedy
0.6 The Epidemic
  1  The Program
  2  The Treatment
  3  The Recovery

Cover image courtesy Simon & Schuster

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Needlework Tuesday - Keeping the Mojo going

I don't know about you, but I tend to start the year with the best of intentions and plans for all sorts of accomplishments.  By the time mid or late January rolls around, my mojo starts to wane and I find myself veering wildly off track.  This year I am making a concerted effort to stay the course.

 Last week I showed you the fittens (foot mittens) that I am making this year. I want a basket full to offer to visitors so their toes stay warm.  Pair number two is complete.  This is the large size which comfortably fits womens 8-9.
 The large, in yellow, is one knit-purl repeat larger than the medium, in red. 
Hubby is curious about the fit, thus I have started a pair in his size.

I doubt I'll keep up this pace for the year, but the intent is at least a dozen pairs, so I am off to a good start.

How to keep my needlework mojo.  The very best approach I have found is to share my plans here on my blog.  Once I put it out to the world then I feel obliged to follow-up and show you my progress.  Readers are curious, but they are also forgiving if I slack off.  When that happens, I have my friend Patricia to nudge me along.  Just like the rest of you, she wants to see the finished item.  Oh, thank goodness for my friends, you help me more than you can imagine.

I recall that Sherrie, at Food for Thought, has posted a list of the quilts she is going to finish this year.  I'm not ready to do that, but I will state that I am going to work on my machine quilting.  I have a few dozen quilt tops and plans for such wonderful quilting for them that far exceeds my skill.  Instead of moaning about that, it's time I started working toward my skill goal.  So stick with me, and please encourage me in my pursuit of stitching happiness.

Have you managed to stay on track this year.  Do you have a technique that you follow and are willing to share. Please leave a comment as well as a link to your goal post or your current needlework post.  Mister Linky is waiting below.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

How did I ever manage to miss this book when it was first released, it is brilliant.  It's easy to feel invisible when you walk into a crowded room, but to feel the same in your own home, that's seriously bad.

Clover is mystified and definitely panicked when she first notices that she is invisible.  Not the invisible you might feel at a large gathering, but the kind where you can't see your hand nor any other part of your body.  She has gone transparent yet her family doesn't even notice.

Soon, she learns that other woman are turning invisible and that some of them have formed a support group.  What she hears from them encourages her to brush up on her neglected reporter skills to try and figure out what has happened.

This is the most original story I have read in ages.  It truly speaks to that part of me that feels lost in large groups.

I love the character of Clover.  Author Jeanne Ray did a terrific job creating her considering that she couldn't rely on Clover's physical characteristics.  Clover falters at first, but quickly regains her balance and even confronts some of her fears while invisible.  She somehow manages to grow in a situation that would humble many others.

After reading this, I want to buy copies and give them to all the women of a certain age that I know.

Cover image courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Canada