28 June 2010

I have awesome friends

My best friend (the one who's getting married this fall) decided to go on a impromptu trip back to London. I was excited to join her but then hemmed and hawwed long enough for the airfare to go from $700 to $1500 (turns out it just takes a week). I REALLY couldn't find any way to justify that.

But she was terribly nice enough to send me some requested goodies from the fabulous V&A show: Quilts 1700-2010 and I am eternally grateful. These fat quarters are ENORMOUS. I'm talking fat quarter meters, giving a piece that measures 21"x26" or so. Those must be some wide fabrics!

The book is fantastic and Mr. Peabody borrowed it almost immediately (it's ok, I know where he lives). The fabric is in a special quarantine until I figure out what great amazing project is worthy. I'm thinking something traditional.

Thanks again Miss Pie!

24 June 2010

Project Hexagon Re-activation Complete

So this was the last picture I showed about the Hexagonal quilt I started last summer.

Initially started this quilt with some fat quarters and fabric scraps I had kicking around from some old sewing projects. It's a slow project but has been progressing off and on since I started it.

Here's an update. It's grown a bit:

I've dusted off the project and brought it back to life. Mostly as a portable project to have with me at the Salon 2010 and have been working on it in the weeks since the show. In fact I've been working on it during my lunch break at work. EVERYONE who comes into the kitchen while I'm stitching says something about the quilt, the most hilarious being "are you decorating easter eggs?!?" These reactions are almost more fun than working on it again. Almost.

So when I'm working on this quilt, I put together smaller sections like this:

You may notice that there have been some additions to the fabrics used for this quilt. Truth is that I don't have enough of the original fabrics to make a quilt of the size that I want. Originally I planned to make this quilt for my double bed. That's still the plan, but if I get bored with it (doubtful) it could become a lap quilt or something.

When each smaller section is done, I attach it to the larger piece:

The arrangement of the hexagons is a kind of planned randomness. Here's how that works. I have a group of fabrics that I have larger quantities of and others that are truly scrap hexes that I have say 1 to 20 of. In each "repeat", I include one of each of my regular fabrics plus a number of my scrap fabrics. They all get arranged in a pleasing random-esque order and get stitched onto the working piece.

Now I've even started paying attention to the orientation of the hexagons. I like it when the shapes from the print on one hexagon can be arranged to line up and blend into the shape on a neighboring one. I'm sure no one will notice these little things but me. They're my little quilting secrets and I find them infinitely amusing.

Oh and if anyone has any fun scraps of fabric they don't know what to do with, I'd be more than happy to take them off your hands. They might make it into the quilt or even for future scrappy projects.

22 June 2010

Fiona and I have been busy

I have been becoming very familiar with my spinning machine, Fiona the ladybug. We've been playing with lots of pretty fun delicious fibres and suddenly I have developed a bit of a handspun stash.

This yummy BFL silk blend really liked to stick to my clothes while spinning. What is it about silk blends that make the fibres stick to everything?

I love the barber pole effect that happens even in the singles of this yarn. And they made a nice squishy 2-ply yarn.

'Delish' Pigeonroof Studios
75% Blue Faced Leicester, 25% Silk
4.5 oz.

Next I got the next installment of the always fabulous CosySpins Falkland Fibre Club. I'm really developing a fondness for this fibre. No matter what, the yarn stays squishy, springy and awesome. It always plumps during the finishing and even sometimes during the plying.

The club offering was 2 related colourways braided together. I was really excited to spin it up but had to think of how I was going to treat the colours.

I ended up spinning each colour as a separate single, then plying them together.

Fibre Club for May
'Pacific mixed match' CosySpins
100% Falkland
4 oz.

The colours really blended together nicely in the plying. In some spots are pretty much solid. The green ended up being longer than the blue, so I Andean plied what remained on the bobbin. I like how well that works out and that you still end up with one skein. The yarn is squishy and soft and super pretty.

As soon as this delicious superwash merino showed up in my mailbox, I knew I had to spin it right away. Soooooooo soft. And I was really interested how the colours would work out in the spinning.

Turns out they turned out to be awesome! Again with the super cool barber poling in the singles. This time creating really interesting blends of colour. This would make a very interesting singles yarn—if you're into that sort of thing. I have yet to try making a balanced singles yarn. Maybe one of these days I'll give it a shot.

'Collision Course' Pigeonroof Studios
100% Superwash Merino
4.2 oz.

This yarn ended up being the most squishy and impossibly soft yarn I have made yet. I think I've reached the point of the ideal amount of twist in my singles so I end up with these deliciously soft yarns. It's so deliciously tasty that I immediately cast on for a lacy baktus. Super squishy and delicious in garter stitch.

For my latest spin, I decided to try and see how fine I could go with this cormo sliver.

Turns out I can go preeeeeetty fine. The colour transitions in the singles made me want to chain-ply but I stuck to my guns of super fine yarn so stayed with the 2-ply plan.

'Pinot Gris' Girls like Boys like Fiber
approx. 304.75 yards
100% Cormo
4 oz.

This yarn is laceweight in places and fingering in others. It's super soft, quite squishy and definitely plumped in the finishing. I'm going to try a Citron from this. Though I'm going to hold off the cast on until I've finished a few other projects.

Lately I've been trying a different method for finishing my yarns. Instead of simmering on the stove, I wash them in increasingly hot water (start with lukewarm and add hot gradually so that the fibres aren't shocked into fulling themselves). It works well for my attention span and the result seems to be equally set as the simmering method. That way I only have to wait for the yarn to dry. With the summer heat we're having, things are drying MUCH faster.

21 June 2010

Check it: more knitting!

K. So I've been neglecting the knitting talk lately. So here's a status check on what's active on the needles these days.

Immediately after seaming up my recent sweater victory, I cast on for this beauty:

And it's been progressing at a nice clip ever since. I think I like this idea of having a sweater on the needles to work on now and again when taking breaks from other projects.

One of my girlfriend's has been a little down due to romantical situations lately. In an effort to cheer her up I'm knitting her some socks. She picked out the yarn from my Flickr and I immediately cast on:

I really was excited by this pattern, Cubist Socks by Cookie A as soon as I came across it and was happy to have someone in mind as the recipient. My bin full of hand knit socks is quite full and I really only wear them when it's super cold in the winter. I have hot feet. Maybe I should get cotton sock yarns to work with at some point, but it's hard to justify when I have such a large sock yarn stash.

This pattern is super interesting and works up fast without much effort or project monogamy, I found myself at the heel flap:

I really like how the leg chart is integrated into the heel flap pattern. I love how Cookie does that in most of her patterns.

Lastly, I have finally cast on with some of my handspun:

This deliciously impossibly soft superwash merino is from Pigeonroof Studios and as soon as the yarn was finished and skeined I wanted to knit something with it. I was originally planning on making socks with this as it's superwash — REALLY want to knit some handspun socks for some reason — but as it's soooooooo soft it would be better appreciated nearer to my face. Ergo, a scarf was in order.

Amanda suggested a Lacy Baktus (Ravelry link) and upon seeing it, I completely agreed and cast on as soon as I could. Turns out to be a very addictive pattern and I quickly had progressed quite a lot.

But I sense the knitting will be a little slower.

This delicious and irresistible fibre arrived on my doorstep last week and I REALLY want to spin it up ASAP!

19 June 2010

Check it: knitting!

It's been seamed. Buttons are on and it's all done.

Amongst all the non-knitting crafting I've been blogging about, I have been knitting behind the scenes. And I've made my favourite sweater to date. It's been a great success!

Generally I usually have much angst when it comes to knitting sweaters. I try to be good. Measure. Swatch. Gauge. Blocking. I have a sweater that taught me the importance of each. The hard way of course. Even as recently as November I had my heart broken by another sweater: the mis-behaving Girl Friday.

But (finger's crossed) I think I've knit my way out of it. Like with jazz improv solos or abstract paintings, I have knit my share of bad sweaters so (knitting goddesses permitting) it should be smoother sailing from now on. And my most recently completed knitting project has me believing again that a wearable sweater is possible to make.

Originally I cast on with this yarn for a Lady February Sweater. After knitting the yoke and just about starting into the gull lace section, I decided a pattern change would be a good idea. The February Lady sweater is a great pattern which I really like, but it's super boxy and as it's based on a baby sweater, kind of a young, little girl in pink-pinafore kind of look. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but in my family, we all have super young looking faces (again, not necessarily a bad thing) so wearing young clothes perpetuates people thinking I'm in University or sometimes even high school. It's only in the past year that I've stopped being carded everywhere I go. So I thought a more grown up sweater pattern was in order. Enter Oblique by Véronik Avery.

Now the Pingouin Grège that I was using is not the same gauge as the yarn used in the pattern. Pretty standard for my knitting, which is likely while I usually run into trouble. But I swatched. A few times. And blocked THOUROUGHLY. Then I did math. Yes, I did the math to figure out what number of stitches would correspond to the measurements I wanted. Oh yes! I also did lots of measuring of sweaters I already have, comparing them to figure out what measurements would give me the fit that I wanted. After all the measuring and the math, I was able to work out my plan for attack: use the stitch counts for a larger size to account for my smaller gauged yarn WHILE following the length measurements for the smallest size (I have a short torso). This worked out super well.

I cast on a started knitting. I usually try to take notes about what modifications/gauge things I come up with into a knitting notebook, but it never works out. It's one extra thing to deal with so somehow I always loose track. Recently what I've started doing is making my notes on the actual printed pattern. I mostly work from patterns printed off the computer so this works out pretty well. I know I need my pattern, so I know I'll always have my notes at hand. It's only taken me 20 years of knitting to figure this out. Sometimes I'm just smart like that.

I worked on this sweater here and there in the evenings when tired of spinning/fighting working with my sewing machine and am watching tv. So while I wasn't really paying attention, I finished a sweater! And then seamed it. And then bought buttons. Then it sat for a while as I figured out what to use on the inside to reinforce where they'd be attached. The weather turned quite cool and rainy again so I decided the universe (or knitting goddesses) were telling me to just be done already and I could actually wear it.

And I love it. It fits a little bigger than I planned, but close enough for me to call it a success. I can actually see myself wearing it (and I have) to work without feeling like the usual jeans + t-shirt sloppy self I've been for the past while. This sweater, while being big and cosy definitely isn't in the sloppy category. It's also super warm. Gotta love that alpaca content.

So TA-DA! I can knit a sweater! That I like! And that fits how I want! And isn't a big silly hoodie!

Pattern: Oblique by Véronik Avery
Materials: Pingouin Grège
Modifications: Working larger size for gauge. Following length measurements for smallest size.
Start Date: November 23, 2009 as February Lady Sweater. Made pattern switch April 12, 2010.
End Date: May 21, 2010

Needless to say that immediately upon finishing this sweater, I promptly started another. More on that later.

18 June 2010

Baby steps

I've never been up for a full-on design re-hauls. So much work and I'm my own worst client when it comes to these sorts of things. But check the new gingham background. I think it's pretty kickass and it was a super easy change.

Maybe one day I'll even make a craftacular banner.

I'm with the band

At the end of May was the Salon 2010 Quebec Quilt show which Mr. Peabody and I have been looking forward to for quilt a while. Really since getting super geeky with the whole quilt thing. So naturally when his boss decided to have a booth at the show, we both were excited to help man it.

I was super excited getting my special pass. I kept saying to everyone "I'm with the band! Here's my backstage pass to the Quilt show!" and felt SUPER COOL flashing at the front tables each time I breezed past. There may have been the odd wink thrown into the mix as well.

Of course the best part of working the show is getting to see what all the other quilt shops are and what they carry. The side benefits of working the show are vast and plentiful. You get to know some of the other booth keepers and hear everyone's favourite techniques, tricks and gadgets. Plus Mr. Peabody went to scope things out on Thursday evening during our usual appointed Courtepointistes timeslot. We did a round of all the booths, checking out their wares. Then went back around and picked up the things that caught my eye.

On Saturday, we met up at the Metro and headed up to the quilt show with our various provisions. Both of us brought a plethora of healthy snacks, 2 huge bottles of water and some craftivities to keep busy during slower times.

The general strategy: sit when you can. If seated, take a sip of water and have a snack. I was pretty eager to start selling fabric and talking quilts from the get-go, but most people were just checking things out for the first hour or so. I ended up hanging out and working on my hexagon quilt so I wouldn't be that crazy super eager (and annoying) customer service person that I hate when I go shopping.

Then things started to pick up. I'd say we worked in equal parts French and English which can be a challenge for me. I can speak French quite well having lived in Montreal for almost 4 years now, but would not consider myself Bilingual by local standards. But of course, it's practise that causes improvement which I don't get so much at my day job. I like that I can work in English, as mostly I deal in French at shops and such. Of course a Quebec Quilt show has quilts and people from all over Quebec, especially smaller communities with much less English inclinations than here in Montreal. There were also some booths and quilters who came in from Ontario. So both ends of the language spectrum were represented.

It was super fun to work the Effiloché booth at the quilt show. Everyone was super excited about the fabrics we had. And I got to help many quilters with fabric choices and colour combinations. The part I like most of working with fabric: picking it all out. There was one lady who got super excited every time I found a fabric that worked well with the other choices she had already made. Talk about job satisfaction!

Mr. Peabody and I each took breaks to breeze through the quilts on display. He has all the pictures on his camera and has yet to upload them onto his computer. There's lots, so they'll have to wait for another day.

But here's my goodies from the quilt show:

Awesome fat quarter pack of 30's reproduction fabrics (my absolute favourite fabrics).

Some more small scale Japanese prints to add the ones I bought at Christmas time. I have to start thinking of a pattern for that one.

More 30's reproduction fabrics, this time the über awesome Judy Rothermel Aunt Grace fabrics. There was a shop from Ontario that had a quilt kit with all of them and a box full of fat quarters. We opted to pretty much one of every fat quarter they had, minus some I already have in my box of scrap.

Here are the fabulous books I found. The Cathedral Quilt book I found while browsing around. It has pretty much every variation possible with this construction method. Some really fantastic ideas in there. I was walking around after buying it and had instant street cred with the quilters. Many booth keepers and quilters stopped me to tell me how great a book it was.

The other book was recommended by a booth owner that Mr. Peabody chatted with for quite a while. They were talking about their preference for working by hand instead of by machine and how great it was to see how many people still did all their quilting by hand. He took over my Hexagon Quilt and his Tumbling blocks to show her. Apparently she has made 8 paper-pieced hexagon quilts and ONLY hand quilts all her projects. This book on hand quilting was recommended by her. I had a browse through and it's pretty mind-blowing!

She also recommended the Roxanne n°10 brights for quilting with, so I picked some up. Numerous quilters recommended this jelly sided Clover thimble to us so both Mr. Peabody and I bought one. And all of my seam rippers have managed to disappear on me so I bought a new one recommended as the Cadillac of seam rippers. I'm going to keep my eye on this one!

Overall a super fun quilty time and I can wait for next year. Maybe if we work at it, Mr. Peabody and I could have something exhibited in the next one.

14 June 2010

The Little Shop of Wonders

Hi Jill, here's the post you've been waiting for.

There exists in Montreal a fabulous hidden gem of a house stuffed to the gills with fabulous old things. I mean full. Basement and both floors. FULL of wonders. Mr. Peabody found out about it from a customer at Effiloché and has been pretty much once a week since discovering it. Every time going home with bags full of treasures which he has been very gracious to show off and share.

One Saturday afternoon just as I was having lunch, Mr. Peabody called to see if I wanted to accompany him on his weekly visit to the Little Shop so I could finally see his new found wonderland of stuff. And wonderland it truly is! Full of everything and anything you'd like. This is the place that set dressers and costume designers dream of. Vintage everything all in one place.

Jill pointed us to the basement suggesting I take a look at the rack of dresses down there. It was hard to make it past all the fabulous vintage fur coats and get to the dresses. Once there, I spent a good hour looking at each dress, picking out what caught my eye and moving on to the next. I made quite the stack and found some awesome things. Meanwhile Mr. Peabody looked through the boxes in the back, going through boxes of hats, kimonos, linens, what have you.

When Jill came to check on us, she looked at what I had picked out and suggested I come look at her vintage dress gems upstairs. Again a fantastic range of dresses, styles and eras in great condition. There were a couple that were impossible to say no to.

Mr. Peabody found a few boxes of vintage patterns which we both looked through. As you can see, we found some keepers. This shopping trip has jump started both my vintage dress and vintage sewing pattern collections with some really awesome pieces of both.

And then we were out of time. Well over time. But Jill was very kind to let us hang out some more. Letting Mr. Peabody show me upstairs. Then we hung out chatting about quilts, tops and fabulous old things. We didn't have the chance to take a break for tea. Maybe next time.

On the topic of comments

Just a quick note on the subject of comments. I (of course) LOVE getting comments and do my best to reply to them. My preferred method is by email, but Blogger doesn't always let that happen. So if you prefer to keep you email private (something I completely understand), please note that I will be replying to your comment in the comments of the post on which your comment originated. It might be useful to check that little "Email follow-up comments to" box or check back.

Cool? Cool. Have a good day.

10 June 2010

Fantasy Seamstress

My best friend lives in LA, so we very rarely get to go shopping together. Instead of giving up on it entirely, we sometimes play fantasy wardrobe and send each other things through iChat or email. Recently my friend got engaged and was stressing out about finding a dress. In comes fantasy wardrobe to the rescue!

Disclaimer: I'm not a big super girly, wedding-planned-since-I-was-5 kind of girl. It's taken nearly 20 years for me to get back into wearing dresses voluntarily since my pink lace pinafore ridden childhood. My dad was a sucker for pink. And lace. And cute dresses. I still can't stand any kind of barrette or headband in my hair and regularly cut my own bangs.

But to my surprise, it's super fun to pick out wedding dresses—for someone else—online. Lisa's a good sport and didn't seem to mind that I kept emailing her all these dresses that I found for her, including potential bridesmaids dresses. I even spent some of my lunches at work on the hunt. Then I realised this might not be the best of ideas. I could be starting some interesting rumours as everyone can see my computer screen as they walk down the hallway. Either I'm getting married and am an insta-bridezilla, or that I've snapped and started planning a fantasy wedding to an imaginary groom to keep from feeling sad and alone. So I decided to keep this activity at home.

At some point, my fantasy-wedding-dress search turned into a fantasy-I-have-a-wedding-to-go-to dress search. I found some very lovely dresses in the not-so-lovely $300 range and I suddenly recalled the difficulty I had finding a dress for the last wedding I went to. It was expensive, took 5 hours of shopping to find and still needed a safety pin to keep from showing my bra. Then it occurred to me, I could MAKE a dress.

So Fantasy Wardrobe turned into Fantasy Seamstress. All the fun and excitement of Fantasy Wardrobe, yet with the added super fun benefit of being closer to becoming reality. Pair this up with my recent discovery of A Dress a Day and I've got a new mission: convert my wardrobe of jeans + t-shirts into an army dresses!

I scoured the McCalls/Butterick/Vogue Pattern sites for stuff I liked/would suit me and have started accumulating patterns. Right now I'm working on a Scissors dress. A scissor dress (in this context) is a shirt dress made from Momo Wonderland Snip Snip in blue. Daniel from Effiloché has been helping me fit the pattern and teaching me some proper garment making tricks. In exchange, I have been knitting a dress for a project of his.

A trip to an amazing vintage shop has jump started my vintage pattern collection. But that's a post all in it's own.

Waiting in the wings are some pretty fantastic patterns and fabrics.