Monday, September 29, 2014

Angels' Wings

In place of my regular blog post this week, I decided to hold sort of a celebration of life for my dear friend, who passed away early Thursday after a prolonged illness.
I invited a few people to share their memories of Susan. Most people online who knew her are on The Knitting Community. However, if you're here, and you have memories to share, you can add them in "Comments." 

While you're thinking about that, please enjoy some of the cheese ball Susan made for my cast-off party when I was recovering from thumb surgery. (It's still tasty and calorie-free!)

Jenny, from the Knit Picks Knitting Community, had this to say:

"Susan was an integral part in making the Knit Picks knitting community the wonderful place that crafters have come to know and love. Her support for her fellow crafters was incredible, and it was clearly a passion of hers that she loved to share with others. Susan was a very special lady and she will definitely be missed by all of us here in the community."

One of Susan's early friends on the Knitting Community was Carol, who actually managed to meet up with Susan in person:

"I remember how Susan encouraged me as a new knitter to just keep knitting.  And although she liked doing intricate patterns (and thought just knitting was boring) she said it was the knitting itself she wanted me to pursue. (I still am just doing the old knit stitch and nothing else) and when we met in Ohio, Susan's generosity of spirit showed when she gave me some gold yarn she had created and I gave her some wonderful curly fleece I had gotten at a local wool and sheep festival." —Carol Meissner

Some of us who probably knew her best never got to meet her in person. Cherylbwaters and I had a special bond with Susan:

"In the fall of 2007, I broke my wrist. Shortly after that my mother-in-law fell ill and came to live with us. Then in early 2008, one of my sisters was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. So by the end of 2008, I was extremely stressed out. So, I was puttering around Knit Picks desperately looking for something new to knit. About that time, the first Mr. Foster kit came out. So I ordered the kit, but I knew I might need help. Although I had been a long time customer of Knit Picks, I had never joined the Knit Picks Knitting Community. I became a member in order to join in the Mr. Foster KAL. At first I lurked around and didn't say anything. Soon I became hooked and started making comments and once I made a few comments, I found that I couldn't stop. I quickly joined several other KALs. I had joined Ravelry but found it quite intimidating. But the knitting community here felt comfortable. It was better than my local guild and the small knitting group I belonged to because the time was flexible and the people were very helpful and friendly.
"Then Kelley Petkun decided to interview some of us for one of her pod casts. She happened to choose Peggy Stuart, Susan the Blue Lake Knitter and myself. Although we knew of each other in the community, we certainly were not close at the time. But the three of us started corresponding in anticipation of our interviews. Then we had to wait quite a while for the pod cast to be released. So we kept corresponding in anticipation of the pod cast. This created a long lasting friendship between us. We have messaged each other almost daily since then. We didn't talk just about knitting, but also about our families, any problems we had, just about anything. And when Susan would discuss us with her sweet husband, we were known by the states we lived in: Utah (Peggy) and Texas (me).
"I cannot say if we would have become such good friends if we had met in person, but there was something about our correspondence that allowed each of us to open up and share our joys and our miseries.
"Susan was the baby among the three of us, in age and knitting years, yet she was a very guiding light. We always had to tease her because she would always describe herself as a newbie. Susan was never afraid to try new techniques. This made her grow rapidly as an experienced knitter. We had to constantly remind her that although she may not have been knitting super long, she was experienced because she wasn't afraid of knitting. She soaked up every thing she could about knitting. Then she and Peggy took off spinning. They had to drag me into it, kicking and fighting all the way. I can never forget how much they have made me blossom in the world of fiber.
"I cannot believe that Susan is gone. She will always remain in my heart. Thank you, Susan for being such a wonderful friend and being a shoulder to lean on when needed, for all the encouragement you have given me, and for all the laughter you brought into my life. I'm not sure what I will do without you."

Cheryl has pretty much told the tale. I remember getting the email from Knit Picks in September 2009 inviting me to be interviewed by Kelley on the podcast and noticing that the email had also been sent to Cheryl and Susan. We began communicating through emails and personal messages. ("Are you going to do it?" "I'm so nervous!" "Just imagine everyone in the audience naked.")

Soon we were "talking" virtually every day. Over the following years, Susan brought in one or another of our Knitting Community friends to participate in our "talks." These people would stay for awhile and participate, but mostly it was just the three of us. If one of us found out that someone in the Community had a fiber issue that one of the others could handle better, or we thought it would be good for the others to put in their two cents' worth, we would share that information. We popped in so often that we became known as the Knitting Community's "Fairy Godknitters." We made Baby Surprise Jackets, Cookie A Socks and Entrelac together. We explored spinning and even weaving together.

While we didn't agree on everything (who does?) we shared an obsession with fiber and what we could do with it. Susan and I shared our love of dogs, nature and red wine. We had grandbabies at the same times (more or less) and rejoiced over each other's new additions. Susan and I had the same drop spindle (Golding Tsunami), spinning wheel (Kromski Sonata) and, until Susan broke hers, camera (Canon PowerShot A1000 IS).

Sometimes the three of us would pass messages back and forth until late in the night, always finding something to laugh about or cry over and sympathize with, such as when we lost a person close to us or we had a medical problem, or I would take the wrong meaning because of a typo or ambiguous wording.

We even planned to get together in person, but somehow it never happened. However, I think Susan's message to the two of us--shortly after we found out about the podcast--sums it up. In fact, it was prophetic: "Well, one thing for sure," she wrote, "the three of us will know each other a little better when this whole thing is done. --S"
Some of us are making Susan's family an afghan. If you are interested in participating, please let Cheryl know (Cherylbwaters). The squares can be knitted or crocheted, earth tones or neutrals preferred, washable wool if possible, plain or complicated, and 6" blocked. She will put it together for us. If you are in the UK, send your squares to Mrs. K, and she will send them to Cheryl.

If you want to take some time to remember her, here is Susan's page on the Knitting Community and here is Susan's Ravelry page.
Somewhere in Heaven there's a new angel who has gained angels' wings in place of Fairy Godknitters' wings.

If there's no knitting or quilting in Heaven, it isn't Heaven. Share your memories in comments.
My regular blog will be back next week. I'm working on a quilt and my sock monkey, and should have something to share by then.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monkey Brain

My Mr. F. is moving along.

He's still headless, but at least he has arms now. They look rather flabby, though. I need to take him to Silver Sneakers with me so he can lift some weights.

Mr. F. has been a major UFO since 2009, when I got two arms and one leg done (almost) and quit. Now he's rolling along nicely.

Common Threads met on Thursday. Janet brought her latest "comfort quilt" (one of the quilts she makes for people who have received a troubling diagnosis or are living through other difficult times.)

She made this using fabric mostly donated from Vintage Stitchers members.

The local quilt guild also met this week. We had an interesting assortment of show-and-tell projects.

This was Scottie's partially completed Halloween quilt.

This great hexagon quilt had Dick and Jane fabrics on the back.

I'm thinking this chicken must be a Rhode Island Red.

Since we had "talk like a pirate day" during the week (same as DH's birthday, September 19th), Jill showed us her pirate quilt. She said it took a long time to sew the jewels on the treasure chest. She has it on display at her house on a wall next to a skeleton whose jaws are perpetually shaping an "Aaaargh!". (I love that the quilt looks like a treasure map!)

Julie and I showed off the finished Habitat quilt top, which is being quilted today. (See last week's blog post for the photo.)

I cut out and pieced all the star blocks for a new quilt based on the Connecting Threads' "Sumptuous" kit. Yesterday I started the sashing blocks. I'm having to build them one at a time, because the fabrics have to match up with the star centers, and there's a lot of variety.

As you can see, the stars form the centers of the larger pattern. The empty spaces will fill up with the camel-colored background fabric. Most of my fabrics for this quilt are from the Lincoln Logs kit I bought from a friend who decided the colors weren't for her. (Her palette is what you might call "flash and trash.") They are for me, but I didn't think I needed another log cabin project, so....

On Friday, Julie, Janet and I converged on Joanie to help her finish the blocks for her pine tree quilt. It's paper-pieced.

We finished all but two of the twelve blocks, and Janet and I each took one of the remaining two blocks home to finish. Here's my last block:

Joanie and I will sew them together with sashing and cornerstones, and put on a border. Julie will quilt it on her long arm.

We all brought our Featherweights to Joanie's house. Julie brought her "new" sewing machine, an old '30s Featherweight that looked very bad until she had an auto-body shop paint it.


Friday was also DH's birthday. We were planning on going out to eat, but we did FaceTime with DD and her family, and went way over time, so we went out Saturday instead. We had a great meal of Indian food, then did more FaceTime with DS2 after we got home. Johan obliged us with some adorableness, as you can see in this screen shot.

Today is the last day of summer. Rocky is making the most of it!
Finally, DS2's new movie, The Boxtrolls comes out on Friday. (He does special effects for Laika, the studio that produced The Boxtrolls and several other films.) EVERYONE has to go see this film. We plan on seeing it on Friday.

What's on my needles: Progress on my Mr. F. The Johan socks are holding.

What's on my Featherweight: As-yet-unnamed quilt using Connecting Threads' "Sumptuous" kit as inspiration.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Listening to Better Read than Dead by Victoria Laurie. Still reading Joseph Lallo's The Book of Deacon from Book Bub.

What's my app of the week: Facebook's new Messenger App. I love that it's separate from FB now.

What's in my wine glass: Blackstone Mendoza Malbec 2011. "Plum and blueberry...rose petal and cocoa. Mmmmmm.

What's my tip of the week: If you're cutting dark printed fabrics on a dark cutting mat, turn the fabric to the wrong side if you have trouble seeing where the fabric is against a dark-colored mat. Dark prints are much lighter on the reverse side. This won't work, of course, with fabric that's yarn-dyed or batiks, that is, where there's no right side.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nesting for Winter, Part II

The quilt for Habitat for Humanity's Overall Ball fundraiser is coming along. I finished putting the blocks together with sashing, corner stones and a border.

This involved a consult with Janet and another one with Julie, as we were trying to get by with fabrics on hand. I was scrambling, but managed to get the top pieced in time to pass it off to Julie at Vintage Stitchers.

We met at Janet's. Diane was appliquéing this Dresden Plate design.

Carol is finishing up her yellow quilt, the one that made me fall in love with the lovely yellow floral fabric. She's putting the binding on.

Janet was also finishing up this quilt. It's "Blue Lagoon" from It's from Pam and Nicky Lintott's Jelly Roll Quilts, the first book in the series.

She had finished piecing her "Sparkling Gemstones, also from Jelly Roll Quilts. (Janet has set a goal to make every quilt in the book.)

This was a pretty design, but when I made it, I regretted following the directions exactly. The way they designed it, it ended up with extra seams that made piecing difficult. I suggested to everyone in my group (do as I say, not as I did) to just strip piece the jelly roll "gem" fabrics as directed, and then sew the thinner strip on after the pieces are cut and sewn into the little rectangle 4-patches. Barbara and Janet both avoided my problem by doing that.
Janet has used the same gray fabric for the background that she gave me to use for the border in the Habitat quilt. I love that fabric!

You may remember that I spent a good part of the previous week cleaning and organizing my fiber studio. It turns out that I managed to injure my right knee, with the repeated climbing up and down on the kitchen ladder to fold and arrange my fabrics and yarn, and especially with the twisting, as I turned around repeatedly. It required a trip to the doctor and X-rays when it didn't seem to be getting any better. No serious damage, though. There was some fluid collected in the knee, and it's finally getting better.

Saturday afternoon the new sofa bed from IKEA came. In five boxes. We managed to get it put together and useable by 8:00 PM. It was an interesting study of two people working together: one who had read the instructions and the other who liked to be in charge. I would say the hardest part was ironing the removable slipcover. Now I have a  new knitting nook in my fiber studio. (Even though the slipcover is washable, I have it covered with my Sparkling Gemstones quilt, to protect it from the pups. I'm sure it's easier to wash than the slipcover.)

The old sofa bed went to Carol's gardener. The space has to double as sleeping space for company, as we only have one guest room. Our house originally had four bedrooms, but one became our dining room, and one became DH's "study." 

Remember my Mr. F.? He's on the move again!

I'm going to try to finish him as a present for one of the grandkids this Christmas.

I also drafted a block for a quilt I plan to make when I can get a chance, but I really want to finish up some more UFOs before the end of the year.

Johan hit two months, I think his personality is starting to show in his photos.
Finally, happy anniversary to my mostly loveable DH. We were married 49 years ago today and hope to make it to 50 if one of us doesn't kill the other! (Life would have been very dull without you, Sweetie!)
What's on my needles: Some progress on the Johan Socks socks as well as on "the elusive Mr. F." (my name for him from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin).

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Listening to A Thread So Thin by Marie Bostwick. Still reading Joseph Lallo's The Book of Deacon from Book Bub.

What's my app of the week: FaceTime. I tried to Skype with our DS1 and DIL, but was unable to do it. We couldn't figure out what was wrong. They had the same problem on their end. We switched to FaceTime. Easy, and the video was much clearer than Skype. I guess Skype is charging now, but I'm not sure.

What's in my wine glass: Bogle Petit Sirah 2012. A nice choice, and the bottle is recognizable from the back.

What's my tip of the week: If you buy something with a label or price tag that comes off but leaves sticky stuff behind, use the sticky side of the label to press repeatedly on the sticky part, and most or all of it will come off. If the label doesn't want to come off, try running the hair dryer over the label for a few seconds. Labels are usually easily removed after this treatment.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Nesting for Winter

Why is my yarn stash in guest room?

This isn't even all of it. Not all of the yarn is in view. I would need a wide-angle lens to get it all in.
Back to the question: A few months ago we discovered we had moths, originating in our Navajo rugs in the storeroom. While I was sad about the rug damage, I was frantic about my stash. I began freezing it in batches in our deep freeze. As each batch came out of the freezer, I would throw it onto the guest bed. I'd been planning to reorganize my fiber studio, so this seemed like a good time.
Here's my stash of Knit Picks Palette, before organizing by color and putting it all away in a cabinet:
I just dumped it all on my cutting mat. Here are the upper cabinets organized. The quilting fabrics are on the left. Yarn for specific projects is on the right. Sock yarn (which doesn't count as stash) is on the top shelf of each of the cabinets on the right. A friend pointed out that I could store yarn in that suitcase on the top right, but I had to explain that the suitcase holds my thank-you notes for all the people who give me...ahem...yarn, spinning fiber and quilting fabric. (Hint, hint! Wink, wink!)

The tidied-up fiber studio still has a lived-in look:

And another view:

My cutting area is ready to be used again, now that the pile of Palette has been put away.

The cabinet was an old bathroom cabinet, rescued after a replacement was installed. It's also useable as a light table. We had a glass company cut a piece of 3/4" plexiglas to the right size and frost one side. DH took the "decorative" fronts off the part that used to house a sink and put a shelf in to hold two under-counter lights, shining up under the plexiglas. I used this light table a lot when I was working on my Delectable Pathways quilt.

The design wall hides a closet fitted with shelves for storage. For the design wall, I took a queen-size Warm and Natural quilt batt and sewed battens onto the top and bottom. the ends of the top batten slip onto a couple of hooks on each side of the closet.

I can place single blocks on the surface, and they will stick to it. As long as there isn't a breeze, they will stay put. Larger sections of quilt top need to be pinned, though. I can roll it up and store it, with or without my project. The curtains underneath are the same as those in the window. On the design wall are the house blocks fellow quilters made for a quilt for Habitat for Humanity. It's going to be auctioned off next month. I got the last two blocks yesterday (not shown). The fabric on the right is what I expect to use as sashing.

I'm now ready to tackle the weaving/spinning area. The corner with the little Jøtul gas stove doesn't look too bad.

However, the rest of that part of the room leaves much to be desired. I plan to replace the futon-type sofa bed with the nice sofa-bed couch I bought at IKEA on Saturday. It will be delivered next Saturday. If we have good luck assembling it, I can post a photo next week.
You can see my antique quilting frame between the couch and the chest of drawers. The drawers to the old entertainment center are sitting on the bench in front of the sliding door. The main section is outside, covered with a tarp. We have to get rid of that huge piece of furniture. The kumihimo "loom" (covered with a white bag)is going to the weavers' guild. A friend asked me to find a home for it, and I thought the guild would like to have it. I'll post photos of the finished area when it happens.

I did get some projects worked on this week. The big ta-da of the week was my finished Delectable Pathways (aka "Peggy's Sistine Chapel," so named because of how long it has taken) quilt top. I'm going to hand quilt it, and my friend Julie, the professional machine quilter, has it now to baste for me.

Joanie and I were only at Common Threads for a little while on Thursday, because I drove her to her doctor's appointment in Salt Lake City. (Her other friends and I take turns driving her places.) We did stop in and have some coffee and something to eat at Georgette's before I took her home. I didn't get any photos, though. Now that Joanie doesn't drive anymore, she likes to have friends come and knit with her on Friday, so I got some work done on my Johan socks. I'm ready to start the gusset:

The big family news for this week was the special viewing of "The Boxtrolls" for Laika employees and families, which includes DS2, his wife and the two boys. Our son does special effects for Laika films. Everyone needs to go see this movie and give me a full report!
Johan greeted the new adventure (his first 3D movie) with his usual exuberant enthusiasm.
What's on my needles: Some progress on the Johan Socks socks. Some progress also on "the elusive Mr. F." (from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin) One leg to go.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Finished The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, from Audible. Outstanding read! Now listening to A Thread So Thin by Marie Bostwick. Still reading Joseph Lallo's The Book of Deacon from Book Bub.

What's my app of the week: Goodreads. I can find out about a book I'm thinking about reading or listening to before I buy or check out from the library.

What's in my wine glass: Trader Joe's Coastal Syrah 2012. "Moderate tannins and lingering oaks." Yep, that describes it!

What's my tip of the week: Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold potatoes can be microwaved (according to your microwave's instructions) and cooled. Then the skins are easy to peel off with your fingers. You can cool them off under cold water if you're in a hurry. The pups love the peels!

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cutting Up and Getting Out

The main activity for this week was my "Reflections of Butterflies in Lemonade" quilt top.

I started this quilt on Tuesday. It's the Disappearing Hourglass block from Missouri Star's Quilt Block magazine, the latest issue. There's also a video of how to make it on YouTube.

In the magazine, they show you how you can rotate every other block 90° and end up with a secondary design, and that's what I did. The instructions called for using layer cakes (precut 10" squares), but I realized that this would yield a block with bias edges...not my favorite thing. You put a light square and a dark one together, sew around the outside and cut diagonally twice, corner to corner, which gives you four half-square triangles (HSTs). I figured out that 7 1/4" squares would give you two HSTs about the right size, and you can fit them onto a fat eighth, of which I had several I wanted to use. It takes two of these 7 1/4" squares each of the background and foreground to make a block this way. You sew the HSTs together to make the hourglass block, then cut into 9 patches, which you rotate and sew back together. Fun and easy, with a few precautions. Here's what I learned about making this quilt: 

1) Don't listen to an audiobook when you're first learning how to sew and cut the blocks. If you cut one wrong, you either have to start over, and the waste the fabric, or you have to resort to templates [shudder] or do some serious math and cut pieces out of scraps.

2) When you sew the blocks together always have the light triangle in the same upper corner.

3) When you repress the seams that don't fit when you sew the block together, always press them in the same way.
My Delectable Pathways is coming along. I'm appliquéing the leaves that cross over seams into the pieced blocks. The first panel is done, and I'm working on the second. Julie tells me that her store, where I bought the background fabric, closed in 2004, so I've actually been working on this quilt for ten years! So I've decided to rename it "Peggy's Sistine Chapel."
Vintage Stitchers met at Diane's last week. Marilyn and Brenda are working on the same machine-appliqué birds.

Barbara has finished her "Witches in Stitches" quilt top. We discussed how to have it quilted. Julie, who is a professional quilter, says you can quilt right over the embroidered parts if you use the background color.

Here's the fun back:

Marilyn was working on this batik appliqué:

And here's Rebecca's appliqué:

Daphne and Zachary are now in the same day care, which, for Daphne is preschool. They go to the University of Wisconsin. (Why not start at the top? This way, when they want to go to college, their parents can say they already sent them to a top university.)

This is Zachary, showing off his new backpack and his haircut. (Yes, his hair was longer.)
Our newcomer, Johan, occasionally opens his eyes now.
Finally, our sweet Rocky turned 10 yesterday! (That's 10 in human years!) We took a hike to celebrate. He's in good health, so I have great hopes that he will be with us for 6-7 years yet. Rocky is the most human dog we've ever had, and we love him to bits! (This photo was from last spring, but it was the best recent portrait of him.)
The weather was nice, and we made it to the Fairy Tree in Toll Canyon with friends. (Rocky's the one with the fancy beads, which we left at the Fairy Tree.)
What's on my needles: Still Cat Bordhi's "Bavarian Twisted Stitch" socks from her book, Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles, aka the Johan Socks. Someone in the Knitting Community reminded me that I also have Mr. Foster on the needles. I should really give "the elusive Mr. F." (from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin) priority. Still sewing the leaves on my Delectable Pathways.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Still listening to The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, also from Audible. Also still reading Joseph Lallo's The Book of Deacon from Book Bub.

What's my app of the week: Public Radio. You can select your favorite PBS station and listen to it in real time.

What's in my wine glass: Amberhill Secret Blend 2010. One of my faves.

What's my tip of the week: Did you know you can use your iPhone as a hotspot for your computer or iPad? Go into "Settings," tap "Cellular." Select "Personal Hotspot." Follow the directions. Of course, this will count towards your data usage, if you have a plan that has limits.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.