Sunday, July 26, 2009

Call to Action.

Sometimes I wonder what it is that finally urges us to DO something about things that have been niggling at us for ages. We put up with them for so long, then ...WHAM...we can't stand it any longer & we have to do something about it! The straw that breaks the camel's back.
My sewing room has been driving me nuts-I can't stand it when it gets too messy.
I know I have plenty of friends who can only be creative when they have a mess around them- not me. Its not like I want my room to be pristine all the time, in fact I find this counter-productive, in that, I don't want to mess up my nice clean room again, so I don't sew.....go figure.I just like it to be tidy enough so I can cut things out & have most of my things away-not in piles all over the place.
Saturday I played around with double folded mitred corners to make a 'window' in a chalk board place mat I was making for our Grandson who is coming to visit next week. Took me most of the day measuring & playing around to do what I wanted-I realised after I cut it & folded it I needed to allow 12" instead of 8" to get the size window I needed- lesson learnt & then I had to do my window a different way so as not to waste the space fabric I had bought for him in the US as I didn't have more....where there is a will there is a way. No mistakes in this house just a new way to make something!
This morning I was going to start on DIL's quilt- the aim being I'll make everyone in the family a quilt for this rate maybe 2 will get them,if they are lucky, (only because I have the top already made for one of them!)
And that's when it started. The towel I throw over the chair I have up here in the sewing room, slid to the floor, as it usually does-it slides off & I pick it up & throw it back on,constantly. I decided that I'd just recover the chair-just like that, I'd picked up the towel once too often. It has been doing that for the past 2 never really bugged me that much, but this morning that was it- time to do something about it. I pulled out some fabric that was sitting in a pile on the floor & chop, chop, stitch, stitch...2.5 hours later I was the proud owner of a very swishy looking chair- covered beautifully- couldn't believe how well this all went together....why didn't I do this sooner?

That was then I decided that the room could do with a bit of a tidy up, thorough vacuum & all the surfaces wiped down & ALL the piles of fabric from my recent trip be put away....I'm not sure what happened along the way but the curtains came down- I decided that the roman blind wasn't going back up again that I look at the new curtain (yep, I just sewed a new one- back into that stash again!)-I'm sitting here in my very tidy sewing room & looking at the new window treatment & thinking 'why the hell didn't I do this 2 years ago when the curtain started to bug me then?'- even washing the sheer curtain has made a difference!
My room is looking all light & airy & its so tidy- everything is away-including my old sewing machine that has been sitting here on the desk since I bought the CV (anyone want a loved 2140 with more hoops & gadgets than you'll ever need- I have one for sale at a very cheap price!) Incredibly tidy. Oh, I love it!!!
Now what prompted all this action?-I never set out to make chair covers, pull curtains down & wash them- re-arrange the sewing room & make new curtains & put everything away.....I wish I could bottle this urge to action- I would make a fortune selling it to mothers of teenagers who never want to do anything......imagine putting it in the MOTH's morning coffee & getting all the odd jobs done around the a sewing slump?- just 2 lumps in the coffee & off you go! No more waiting for the final straw.

My neighbour rang this afternoon to let us know she'd been burgled last night-they got her wallet with her cash & cards-they have already tried to use the cards....but what was more upsetting was they came in while she was asleep & she never heard a thing, even after breaking a glass door to gain entry- she's feeling somewhat violated . This will be a reminder to us to be more vigilant with where we leave things when we go to bed.

MOTH can very lax in leaving the doors open when he is out doing the gardening in the backyard-I'm always asking him to lock the doors...maybe this might prompt him to lock the door! Our suburb is not immune as he thinks it is, to being burgled.

I finished a pair of socks this week- oh, have they been dragging on, I never thought I'd get them finished- these were the gainsey toe up pair that I started in Billings....but I can now tick them off as finished! Have started the second sock to match the purple one, also started in Billings-this one shouldn't take so long as I like the pattern better-its more interesting. Not sure what I'll start when I finish this one- more socks maybe, I have much more yarn!

All in all a productive week-I can feel good about everything I managed to get done-even managed to get 5 patients onto the new computer system at work- we won't even go there with those changes!

Happy Crafting
Oz- Tralien

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Machine Embroidery- Embossed Designs.

For the past 12 months or so there has been quite a buzz in machine embroidery circles over 'embossed' designs, it seems that a lot of digitizers have released sets of alphabets, shapes, dog breeds or animals to join the band wagon of supplying keen machine embroiderers wanting these designs & lets face it- if enough people ask, then you'll find that the digitizers will supply!

These designs work best on a napped fabric so make them perfect for putting names on towels-or initials for a monogram-this is where you see them used the most often. ANY fabric with a nap will give the desired effect, but, some fabrics work better than others & are these designs all what they are cracked up to be?

Here is what I found in my experimentation with these designs. Other machine embroiderers may have completely different experiences & outcomes to mine-I'm relaying my experiences & maybe these will help someone who is about to try their hand at this technique or is curious about how it all works.
The majority of these designs work by giving you a shape- say a rectangle & the letter is 'cut out' from the background. The background has all the stitching & the letter has the nap show through, thus giving it the embossed look. By giving an easy shape to start off with- letters can be arranged together to form names, words or monograms-easy enough.

I trialled a few of these designs & before stitching out read a few tutorials. Initially I tried the word Guest-which came from a fairly well known digitizer as a freebie. The letters were too small to make much of an impact on the towel-I tried it with Solvy as a topper & without-having read 2 tutorials where one had stated that it was imperative that you use a topper & the other said it was better not to have one. Personally I found with the size of the design it made little difference- the one with the Solvy has washed slightly better over time- but neither of them is readable after a few washes.

Size does matter-the larger the cut out area the better it will look-but then with size comes the problem of fitting enough letters in the hoop to do a long name- Christopher- would certainly take 2 hoopings & not everyone is happy about re-positioning to continue a design, especially when its critical that you line it up.

Another problem I encountered was the enormous stitch counts involved in making these designs work- the background is pounded into submission with 10,000+ stitches & you repeat for each letter- not much fun & it all takes time-too much time for the end result at this point! They look good, then go to pieces after washing- hardly the result you are after when spending that much time at the sewing machine.

The areas of embossing are stiff. Let's face it- if you are going to put that much thread into that small of an area it will end up stiff....some will say they don't mind that & that's fine- just be aware that it does do that.

I've tried different threads in my quest to have these designs look like the real thing (most often found in trendy or up-market hotels with the name embossed on the towels-either done with heat or when they make the towels in the first place & loom a lower loop. I have not gone into the intricacies of how the original idea is done!) They certainly do not stitch them. These designs are trying to copy that effect.
Thread. I've tried machine embroidery rayon, polyester,heavier weight threads,variegated threads & a matching coloured thread to the item (which is the more traditional method). I found the type of thread did not matter greatly in the scheme of things, although I do like the finish when I use Gutermann Sulky Cotton 30. This thread has a lovely sheen-slightly heavier, so gives a better fill & is 100% cotton.

After playing around with these designs & still not satisfied with the outcome post washing I decided that I would try a piece of organza as a topper. The organza has held up through washing- the letters are still readable,but this method is not for the feint-hearted-you have to burn the open areas out when you are finished- the organza will melt- the nap will pop out & you can then launder it to make the nap bloom a little more. I use a soldering iron. This method will not work well if the letters are too small- it is awkward more than anything.

Variegated threads work well, but are hardly what the original idea is about- but at least you can read what the letters say post washing- a big plus. I also used solid colours for the word "baby"-as these reminded me of baby blocks.

Fabrics. This is what I found with all the different towels & fabrics I tried. The lower & denser the nap- the better these designs work. On some super thick Egyptian cotton towels the result looked really good, it also washed better-on a longer looped towel & not as dense pile the design tended to 'wash out' over time. Polar fleece works well.....I would think that velvet would work well, although I have not experimented on it.
I did test some designs for a digitizer friend & her designs, even though they have a lot less stitches in them than a lot of others for sale- perform equally with the densely stitched ones-the up side of this is that the fabric doesn't become stiff, you use less thread & spend less time for the same results.
My conclusion for embossed designs. Well worth playing around with- I would not give them as a gift for fear that they wouldn't look good after a few washings-unless I'd used the organza method. The better quality the towel you use the better the result in most cases- use a topper-whether its a water soluble one or something like organza-the water soluble at least gives some definition for a little longer than without- the organza works the best for longer use.
The heavier thread gives a slightly better coverage- although it would be hard for most people to pick the difference. All in all, I'm not completely sold- but then it was fun to play around with.
Everyone that I gave one of my experiments to -loved the its definitely a winner!
Happy Crafting

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On a Roll & Loving It

Boy, did we cover some ground this week.
Tuesday saw us out with friends from Malaysia for his Father's B'day. We went to a Chinese restaurant-not my choice but I could hardly say no- although I did try to get out of going. Chinese food & coeliac just don't go together- I ate boiled rice.
Wednesday we had a wedding to attend- the bride & groom & his DD from a previous marriage had been staying with us since or return- hardly saw them-great guests to have! Again this was at a Chinese restaurant-2 nights in a row & I was nursing a massive gluten reaction & really didn't feel like going. Everyone was insistent that I eat more than rice-my poor gut was screaming that rice was enough & let's face it- Chinese food with no sauce is pretty boring & bland. I was fed steamed fish & green vegetables. I was thankful that the cook had made an effort-but to me, the rice is just fine. I insisted, in some strong undertones, that MOTH help me eat the food they had brought for me as I really wasn't feeling up to anything much & it had to look like some of it was gone!
Returned to work on Tuesday-I wanted to go back on leave after the first day-I really didn't have my heart in it it & struggled to get up in the dark each morning- I find the getting out of bed in the cold the hardest. Things had changed at work.
Lizzie whom I have worked with for 22 years has cut back to part time- I'm sure she feels she'd like to cut back, but I will miss her being there for the full week- what is it about change that we don't like?
In Nursing its nearly unheard of to work with the same people for as long as we all have- its like an extended family- all our kids have grown up together, got married together & even started to have babies together.....most of us are at the same stage of life. Ready to retire. So I guess change will be inevitable over the next few years.

Out for dinner last night with our DD & her MOTH- they are always good company-they were talking baby names (this is the on again off again baby)-seems she's thinking about it, but I'll believe it when I see it-would love another grandchild-especially one that is closer-but time will tell.
Made a lovely huge pot of soup for the weekend- MOTH had been complaining that I didn't put barley in it- not that I do put barley in pea & ham soup- he is eating it anyway & I mentioned that I would take a bowl for Larissa at work tomorrow & you should have seen his face....what, my soup-you can't take that to much for the absent barley.
Having house guests sure ups the laundry..must have done 8-9 loads yesterday- I truly was the washer woman!!!, but in true female style I multi tasked all day & managed to get quite a bit done.....why is it that men do not seem capable of doing more than one thing at a time. MOTH is lucky to do one household task a week & that's only if I leave a note with explicit instructions on how to do it & where to to find everything to do it!

Friday was our DIL birthday- had a lovely chat with our Melbourne based family- even had a chat to our grandson who told us he missed us (he now has lots of brownie points in his favour!LOL)-I'm trying to get them up as I'm organizing a 'girly' day out when she comes up-4 of us to the day spa for all their best treatments-hopefully it will make some improvement on me- but I have my doubts!
My sewing machine was going flat out all weekend- managed to get a baby towel done- in anticipation of the birth in August (this is the best thing about knowing the sex & the name- I can be organised ahead of time!) Also managed to make 2 quilts. One is completely finished & the other has some free hand quilting to be done in the centre panel & in the white borders- but I'd really had enough by the time I got the backing on & did all the stitch in the ditch on the second one. Seems I have a few baby items to make as DD has put her order in for her girlfriend's who are expecting at the moment as well!

I certainly made making these baby quilts quick & easy-I found in my stash (this is where a good all round stash comes in handy)-a couple of minkee like blankets, bought on special at the end of winter-last year- the year before?- who knows, they have been aged appropriately! I backed the quilt top with the blanket- not worrying about batting- cut the backing about 3/4" larger than the finished top- folded it to the right side & zig zagged it in place- talk about easy peasy lemon squeezy! The baby gets the soft,cuddly minkee & it goes all the way to the edge & over- saved me doing all that binding & hopefully the quilts don't look too pristine that the Mother's wont use them.
Don't you just hate it when you make something & you are told its too good to use.....I just don't get that.
My socks are coming along as well-started on the second one to match the first toe up I did as an experiment & finished the purple one- although Lorna, at work, tried to pick all the coloured flecks off it, till I smacked her hand & said that they were meant to be there-sheesh!LOL
My friends are saying the Alien is back- I feel like I'm on a roll & loving it!
Happy Crafting,
Oz- Tralien

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Montana & Home

The last leg of our journey was with Sammi & Mark- we stayed at their place back 2005 when Sammi & Mark hosted the Ya Ya gathering that year-no qualms about the MOTH here - the beer flowed freely & the politics were the same!

Montana is a beautiful place-the skies are big & blue, the people friendly & plenty to see & do.

By the time we reached Sammi & Mark's we were still reeling from the whirlwind tour with Vi & Bruce so were just looking to catch up with old friends & have a relaxing time.

On our last trip here we toured through Yellowstone & Cody- did the Custer's Last Stand out at Harden & managed to see lots of the touristy things-this visit was a catchup with friends.

We were going to go onto Bryce canyon after leaving Montana but MOTH had had enough of being on the road, there were things to sort out at home & visitors, arriving early from Malaysia. The extra 4 days didn't matter-I am glad to be home & to be able to recover from the jet lag before returning to work.
Sammi & I did a shop hop of fabric stores-I can't say my resolve was that strong- purchased patterns, chalkboard fabric to make our GS a portable drawing mat, & fabric for a quilt (yes, another one) & yarn- more yarn.....lots of it! (well, it wasn't fabric!)

I managed to pull my knitting book out while visiting & work out the cast on for the toe up sock-easy peasy lemon squeezy when I managed to apply it correctly-I even managed to knit one whole sock- the rest of the yarn in that colour had been shipped home in a box, luckily I did have more yarn to keep me busy!
Cast on a second sock in purple & knitted like a mad women possessed & got to the ankle before having to pack it away for the trip home- I am not attempting to travel with short needles again.(see previous blog on having them confiscated)
So, 2 new techniques learnt- toe up & on 2 circular needles-love the fact that there is only to yarn ends to darn in at the end & no grafting!
I must say that after seeing Sammi's stash of yarns & fabric-I think I'm just a novice at this stash building- I thought I had a lot- it would seem mine is much smaller than what Sammi calls 'stash'! Now I can tell MOTH that all my stash is nothing in compared to what my friends have!LOL
Another thing I discovered was that if you don't take pictures of the roses first thing in the morning- the sun burns them by day's end- literally cooks them! Sammi told me when they were blooming as she knows I like to do flower pics!

We did do a bit of driving around Billings to take some pictures- they had some spectacular sunsets while we were there....the week passed very quickly & off we went... to return home to Sydney-exhausted & in need of a holiday to recover.
What wonderful friends I have made through the Internet & even better that we can visit them- now to convince them to come to visit us! It's something about that 13 hour flight that scares them off...

Vi & Bruce's- Virginia

Welcome to Virginia!
Wow, we were exhausted by the time we left! Vi & Bruce had us out everyday showing us the sights of their beautiful little neck in the woods.
When staying with friends where the MOTH haven't met before, there is always some trepidation that they won't hit it off- for all my fellow forum friends- its easy for us- we all have sewing in common-there is always something we can do together & look at together-but when the men come into the equation, one is never sure-especially with my MOTH who follows US politics as much as our own & has strong views on it all & isn't afraid to say what he thinks- even though I warn him to tread carefully until he is sure of the lay of the land.
I had stayed with Vi & Bruce 2 years ago & had enjoyed myself so much with them, and was delighted to be able to return again when they asked us both to come for a visit- they live in an idyllic little spot & are very proud of the rich heritage of the area where they are situated-this time I had MOTH in tow.
The equation changed.
I need not have worried.
These MOTH were like twins separated at birth- boy did they get on- too well at times! There was lots of talk of politics & Bruce being keen on the history of the area & MOTH keen on seeing it (being a bit of an American Civil war buff) was only too happy to be taken to any & all battlefields! I must say I do not share his interest in battlefields but thought it would be a great photo opportunity none the less. I'm just not that into massive loss of young lives & the strategy of the battles fought.
Vi & Bruce had us out every single day-did we see the sites. Antietam, Harper's Ferry, Stratford Hall, Roanoke Mountains (I sure hope I have the right range-their house look out onto these mountain ranges & the sunsets are awesome!), D.C. & down to Potomac Beach.

MOTH wanted to see deer & 'wildlife'- he felt cheated at Terry & Ruth's as he didn't sight anything more than a few squirrels & chipmunks....he was after bigger game to 'shoot'.
A trip up to the mountains soon fixed that.
Deer-lots of them, even some bears- he managed a shot form the car window-not all that great a pic, but you can see it is a bear. I saw a mother with her cubs on the other side of the road but they were in a heavily wooded area- not much good for snapping pics! & more deer! By the time we got home he was indeed a very happy chappy! Both of us saying we had the better picture. I do concede he did get the only bear shot (my excuse being I was on the wrong side of the car to actually shoot anything recognizable).

We visited Antietam & Harper's Ferry on the same day- the loss of life was shocking but the battlefields have been left as they stood-a reminder to all of the great losses suffered.Stratford hall was another visit along with Potomac Beach- boy don't you see the sites on a beach. Some sights should be well hidden!

We did a trip into D.C. -I must say the traffic is frightening on those freeways- sheesh, no one slows down, uses an indicator to change lanes & they hurtle along, ignoring for the most part, any speed limits! I found the best way to cope with this was to sit in the back & close my eyes! Even when it's pouring down rain & visibility is lessened- no one would think of driving at a lesser speed!We did see the White House,the Vietnam Memorial, Korean war Memorial, Lincoln's Statue- the place where Forrest Gump ran through the crowds in the water (I can't remember the name of it- but do recall that scene)-the Smithsonian (what a gorgeous building- this was a drive by as we were running out of time) & a lot of other notable landmarks in the area!
Vi & Bruce have a pair of geese that return to their pond each year to raise their family- this year there were 6 babies- there were 7, but the snapping turtle got 1 on the first day out.
It was amazing to watch these parents with the babies-father keeping a watchful eye on his brood while they walked along the grass eating & mother goose up front keeping them all together. Off they'd go in a line & then all be on the pond & each night they would return to the pontoon in the middle of the pond to sleep in safety.

Their flying lessons were so funny to watch-the babies just weren't sure what to do with these huge wings as they ran along the grass-the first day they got lift off- 2 of them managed to get off the ground & land, not too delicately, back in the pond!
Each day the flying lesson was done & each day they got better, by the time we left they could all fly & land without too much trouble. Vi tells me the following week they were doing water take-offs, so the time for them to leave would be coming soon.
While at Vi's I bought a book on Knitting Socks from the toe up- hmmm, I wasn't too sure about this- the cast on looked weird, but I'm willing to learn & I did like the look of some of those socks!
I refrained from buying fabric (I felt I had bought enough-well, maybe not,but I did show some constraint while I was there!). I read the instructions a few times & thought maybe when I'm not so knackered I'll give this a go.
We fell, exhausted into bed each night....the knitting could wait.
Next stop, Montana with Sammi & Mark.

Perth, Ontario

One thing I have discovered on this trip is that I don't get time to keep my blog up as a travel diary when we're staying with friends-always too much to do! I also decided that I do not like the little laptop MOTH gave me to travel with- its too bloody small to see anything, and, as for editing any pictures, nearly impossible- especially after a large Baileys or 2!
This morning, while its quiet- we are home again now- I'm doing the catch ups on our trip-so will have to do a few entries, hopefully all today.
Here's a little more on our visit with Ruth & Terry.
After leaving Ya Ya I drove back with Barb to her place & caught the train to Ruth's-where I met up with MOTH, whom I hadn't seen for some 2 or more months-he'd been off travelling through Asia & the UK on his own-the reunion was uneventful, not even mildly exciting-he was much more interested in the loss of his baggage (another one for the bags getting a better holiday than its owner), having a beer with Terry & watching a hockey game....does 30+ years of marriage do this to a couple? Oh, hi dear, nice to see you- hand us a beer while you're up, will you.....
We have stayed with Ruth & Terry quite a few times now & its like coming home- we catch up with friends we've made through them- a social round of outings, meals out & gossip with the quilting group for me & catching up since the last time I saw them all.
We spent 2 weeks with Terry & Ruth, driving around the countryside to take pictures, or Ruth & I heading off to another quilt shop- seems that even with all the overload of Lancaster we were not quilt shopped out! Even managed to buy more fabric & order some online to have posted home!
While browsing through a magazine I happened upon "Fresh Vanilla" quilt & thought it would be perfect for our DIL- I had asked her before if she would like a quilt- she said she'd like a 'white one'- I mentioned that I 'didn't do white ones' ( I am not that crazy to be attempting a whole of cloth quilt when I hate the quilting part of making a quilt in the first place!).
Initially I was just going to order it & make it as a surprise for her, then thought what if she really hates it, then feels obliged to use it because I made it-so caution got the better of me & I sent her the link! Yeah- she loved it- said it was perfect-it has taken me some time to get to know my DIL's tastes but I think I have her pegged now.
I showed the quilt fabric & quilt to DD on our return & she loved it as well- only, can I have it in blues please-& would you believe it they do a blue colourway in the exact same fabrics- looks like everyone will get a quilt this Christmas- if I can get my act together & get them all done in time. I have ordered a whole 30 yard roll of batting from Zooks in Lancaster-hopefully it will arrive soon.
While at Ruth's I managed to get a pair of socks knitted- I had ordered some new needles & 2 packs of socks yarns from Knitpicks which were waiting for me at Barb's when I got there. The packs come with a mix & match recipe for making all sorts of socks- cafeteria style I call it- you just pick what you want & voila! you have a pair of socks.
Madeline showed an interest in the socks & so she was the lucky (?) recipient of the latest socks-pretty blue/green colour with a lacy pattern, spiral toe-fitted her perfectly & she even has yarn for patching.
Terry seemed pleased with his red 'ladder of life' socks- he even modelled them for me so I could take some decent shots of them- now lets hope Ruth doesn't wash them in hot water or throw them in the dryer! It would appear that the newly taken pics of the socks have disappeared from the folder-I'm not sure where that could possibly be.....but lets hope they are at least still on the other laptop.....
I started a second pair of socks while at Ruth's, then frogged them- they just weren't doing anything for stop Vi & Bruce's.