Friday, January 22, 2016

All Downton, All the Time

Exciting...one shawl checked off my list already! My Dotted Rays shawl is finished but not blocked. It only took 8 days to knit, that's a record for me, I think!

I'm excited to move on to the Downton Abbey Mystery Knit Along shawl! It is oh so lovely already. And the interesting part is that it will not be a circular shawl. What the what?

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In other (but related...you'll see why) news, we are in full-on planning mode for our summer trip to London and Paris. Dates are set, apartments are booked, flights are being purchased, lists of places to see are being compiled.

In addition to that, I'm planning for another very important part of traveling: creative outlets. Last time we were in London, I found myself on flickr slamming as many quilt pictures as possible in the short amount of internet time we had. I was starved for inspiration! My hands felt empty! I wasn't creating anything except memories and while memories are super important, creating real things is important too. It's a very huge part of who I am. And to be deprived of that for two weeks felt like a punishment, not a vacation!

So, how to remedy the situation this time around? First, I'm planning to visit a few places that will inspire me. On the list so far: fabric shopping at Liberty of London and a visit to the fashion galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum (which were closed the last time we were in London).

To address the need to physically create things, I'm planning a knitting project to take along. I can imagine the airports, planes and evenings where it would be so nice to knit a few rows and relax. And at the end of two weeks, I'll (hopefully) have a finished item that will remind me of my trip.

But what should I make? My first thought was a shawl, one skein, crescent shaped. Something not too complicated but still pretty. Maybe a bit of lace or texture? Something light and summery. Something that would remind me of my trip to these lovely cities. Maybe something that I could wear the next time I visit?

I've been searching through Ravelry and I think I've decided on the Parasol shawl. It fits all my requirements and I just really like it. I'm planning to choose a skein of yarn from my stash, something neutral and soft.

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I have another creative trick up my sleeve but I'll save that for another post. I also have some quilting posts in the works. Until then, thought, it's going to be all Downton, all knitting around here. I hope you don't mind.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016: A Little Bit of a Plan

I've been thinking a bit more about my goals for this year. I have six (possibly seven) quilts that I most definitely want to make. These are gifts but they're also quilts I've wanted to make and give away for quite some time. It will take a huge weight off my shoulders to finish these. Two will be finished for gifting in February, four or five will be for the holidays this year.

For knitting, I have three shawls that I'd really love to make (Dotted Rays, Firebolt and the Downton Abbey MKAL 2016) and one wip I'd like to finish in time for fall (Follow Your Arrow II). Four shawls this year, that's totally do-able. One will for sure be for me and I might give the other three away depending on how much/little I fall in love with them.

First up in 2016, I frogged this:

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and turned it into this:

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Sorry for the bad picture, my needles are too short to stretch the whole thing out right now.)

I had wanted to show off this beautiful yarn by making a plain garter stitch shawl. But it turns out that my original idea was just too boring for this yarn. Now I'm knitting the Dotted Rays pattern by Stephen West. He's what I'd call an extreme knitter and his patterns and colors are WILD! And the more I thought about this yarn, I just knew that one of his patterns would be a great match.

I'm slowly going through my stash and my Ravelry library and pairing up patterns I'd like to make with yarn I already have (seems like an obvious plan but I only just thought of it...this whole "being deliberate" thing is just so foreign to me!). One combo that I'm particularly excited about is the Firebolt shawl worked up in a mint green-to-grey ombre yarn. It'll be my first time working with laceweight AND ombre...exciting!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Knitting is Fun!

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Oh my, how I LOVE knitting! I started a few projects this year and finished five. Not too bad! My favorite of the bunch was the Edith's Secret shawl that I gave to my friend Jen. It was from the Downton Abbey 2015 mystery knit along. As I worked on this throughout the year, I kept thinking that Jen would like it. So, I finished it up and set it aside for her Christmas gift this year.

I REALLY loved working on this shawl. I mean, the entire thing was just FUN. And as I knit, I realized that all my knitting projects should be fun. They should be pretty things made with pretty yarn. Yes, there will be some utilitarian things that I'll want to make and they might not be super pretty or super fun. But those kinds of projects shouldn't be all I think about when I knit. I want to have mostly good knitting thoughts, fun knitting thoughts.

So, this year my knitting goal is twofold: knit pretty things and try to use yarn in my stash. In order to actually do this, I have to start searching for patterns that will match stash yarn. I found a great pairing just today which I'll show you in a bit.

I also joined the Downton Abbey 2016 knit along which I will be starting shortly as well. I actually didn't have enough of any one color in my stash to do this knit along so I bought yarn. I don't feel bad because I really do want to join in on the final Downton Abbey knit along fun. It's the last season! Oh dear! Yarn should be arriving shortly and then I'm going to get started.

Such fun!!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Good Year!

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2015 is almost over. I kind of can't believe it. This has been a happy year for me, a good year. I rediscovered my love of quilting, I read lots of books. I spent lots of time with friends and family, especially during our balcony parties throughout the summer.

2015 wasn't an especially memorable or exciting year but upon looking back, I realize that I've actually accomplished quite a bit, at least by my standards and especially compared to other years.

For example, I was shocked when I realized that I had finished 15 quilts this year! Before 2015, I hadn't finished a quilt since the summer of 2012!

This year I finished 10 lap/bed sized quilts and 5 baby/“balcony” sized. 8 were finished tops or nearly finished tops at the beginning of 2015 but 7 were completely new start-to-finish quilts. I gave away 10 and kept 5.

On another topic, I didn’t keep track but I think I read about 25-30 books this year. I had SO much fun reading, especially this summer on my walks to/from work. I read all kinds of books and below is a short list of my favorites (in the order that I read them):

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I can't remember if I read this one in 2015 or late 2014 but either way, it was amazing and I highly recommend it!

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr. Also so amazing!!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is one of my top 5 desert island books, I reread this one all the time.

A Good Year by Peter Mayle. If you want to feel like you’re vacationing in France, read any of Peter Mayle’s books. They're light and feel like an instant vacation.

The Martian by Andy Weir. A perfect science fiction read, more science than fiction and a lot of heart and humor.

November 9: A Novel by Colleen Hoover. A neat love story, totally could not put this one down.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. This book has inspired me to paint again! I just took this Craftsy class and it was very good for what I'd like to try.

So, what will 2016 hold for me?

First, obviously, I'd like to start painting again. What, I don't know...but there will be painting!

Also, I'd really like to use all this quilting momentum to finish up some of my many, many wip's.

And lastly, and this will sound like a jerky kind of goal, I'd like to stop making things for people. Wait, let me explain! Usually I see something and think "oh, this person would like that!" and I drop everything and start making it and then when I realize what I've done, I have this half finished thing that I don't actually want to be working on. And then, since I've started it, I feel obligated to finish it and when I don't, I feel bad.

So, instead, I'd like to make things that inspire me and as I'm working on them, if they strike me as something someone would like, I'll just give it to that person when I'm done. I think that's the much better way to go about making things for people.

Making things shouldn't be about obligation. It should be about creativity and expressing myself and feeling proud of and satisfied by my work. And I want to remember that this year and not get distracted by projects that don't inspire me.

So, here's to 2016, a year of possibilities, a year of dreams.

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Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage Quilt

Bon Voyage! is my last finished quilt of 2015. Since Ian and I have been together, we've taken quite a few vacations with his parents and sister. My favorites have been our trips to Italy, Switzerland and England. This summer we're planning another trip to London with a jaunt down to Paris!

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I wanted to commemorate all the wonderful times we've shared on our trips together and a quilt seemed like the perfect thing. The Granny Square blocks were really fun to make and I had a great time choosing fabrics that reminded me of our trips (and future trips). There are Buckingham Palace guards and maps of Paris, kerchief girls and keys, Eiffel Towers and lovely scrolling handwriting.

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The colors were inspired by some of my favorite places. Bright red, dusty blue/green, cream and black...this combo is definitely one I'd like to use again!

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I know I say this about every quilt but this is absolutely one of my favorites. The colors and the fabrics, the pattern and the memories work together to make this a quilt I'm very proud to have made. I definitely wanted to keep this for myself but I'm glad I gave it to Ian's parents. At least I'll be able to see it again when we take our next trip to California.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Poison Apple Cider

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I'm such a procrastinator when it comes to taking quilt pictures. I finished this quilt on October 31, 2015 but only just washed it and took pictures last week. Oh well, better late than never!

When I first started designing my Halloween quilt, I knew I wanted it to be busy and random looking with large pieces. It took me about two seconds to decide that the Sparkling Cider quilt pattern would be perfect! I'm calling this my Poison Apple Cider quilt.

I absolutely LOVE these fabrics. I had a few in my stash but most are new. I just couldn't resist the Victorian and Day of the Dead inspired fabrics that came out this year.

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As I was perusing fabrics, I saw Spellbound by Cotton + Steel and was drawn to the lovely coral in the Haunted Forest print. I decided to use coral/salmon as my accent color and I'm so happy I did. While orange/purple would have been more stereotypically Halloween, I think the salmon adds to the Victorian look I was going for.

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For the back I used a skeleton print panel that I bought specifically for this purpose. It's framed with a black and white flower print that I bought a long time ago and don't know what it is. If I had a spooky old house, I'd want this to be my wallpaper!

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This will be a couch quilt (64x80) but I couldn't resist putting it on the bed fresh from the dryer. Extra-cat approves!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Skull Sampler Quilt

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The Skull Sampler is a very special quilt made for a very dear friend. I knew Karrie for a while before she started dating Mike. Right then, right away, we knew that Mike would be in our lives forever. And over ten years later, it's still true. Where Karrie goes, so goes Mike.

Mike has been a wonderful friend. When we all go out, I never feel like the third wheel...and neither does he. He's kind and generous and there's just not enough words to express my gratitude towards him over the years.

One of our favorite things to do is to watch movies at their house. We all sit on the couch, Karrie and I side by side with feet stretched out onto the ottoman, each of us curled up in our favorite quilt. And then there's Mike on the other end, all sad with no ottoman, no quilt. Until now!

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I call this the Skull Sampler quilt. It's a lovely mix of black and red and bats and skulls. There's gingham and woodgrain and hand quilting! The back is a soft, swirly dark grey flannel.

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I know Mike will love it because he helped design it. He wanted "shapes", just like the blocks of my Modify Tradition quilt top. He also wanted a black background with red accents and skulls. I was more than happy to oblige! I mean, it's not every day you have an excuse to break out the skull fabrics.

I can't wait for our next movie night. We'll all be so warm and cozy!