Saturday, May 23, 2015

Last of the Lawnbenders

Last summer I learned to use my dad's riding lawn mower.  Well, 'learned' might be stretching it a bit.  I became acquainted with Dad's lawn mower.
The first time I used it, I was happily mowing his front yard and was almost done when he flagged me down.
"You know, you're not really cutting the grass - you're just bending it.  You need to raise the rpms."  And he walked away.
Bending?  I looked back, and sure enough, my wake was a little tufty looking.  Downright scruffy in places.
But rpms?  What rpms?  And how do you raise them?
This was like telling a beginning baker that the cake didn't raise because there wasn't enough leavening.  Leavening?  What's that?  And how much is enough?
So, later, after some judicious questioning about rpms, I established that I needed to give it more gas.  Since there's no gas pedal, I have to give it more 'throttle' by raising a lever from down where the turtle is to up more towards the bunny.
Which would sound less crazy if I show you a picture:

That's actually a picture of a newer and fancier throttle lever than we have (there's a knob!), but you get the idea.
So naturally, for the rest of the summer, whenever I was headed for the mower, I would announce that I was off to bend the lawn.  (I've never been one who could resist a chance to be a smartass.  It's probably a character flaw.)
The other lawn I mow is down at The Flat, which is a family property about a quarter mile down the road, that I'm currently using for my sewing room and storage.  It's an interesting lawn, with trees and bushes and deadfall limbs and rope swings and mild inclines and a clothesline, and any number of other traps and pitfalls.  Literally, there's a pitfall.  It's a hole deep enough to get a riding mower stuck in so that you can't go forward or back and have to call your dad for help.  (Ask me how I know.)
This spring was pretty wet, with long soaking rains happening every time the lawn finally dried out enough to mow.  Finally, there was a stretch of a couple of dry days, so I bustled the mower down the road and started mowing, just in the nick of time - another hour and we'd have had to have a haying crew in...
So round and round I went, through grass 12-18" tall, past trees, under clotheslines, halfway over small logs (oops).  I was just congratulating myself on remembering where the hole was and mowing around it instead of through it, and "yay!  I won't have to call Dad to come rescue me", when the mower suddenly made a brrr-slither-chunk! noise, belched some black smoke, and died.
I said words.  Then I climbed down to investigate.
Hidden in the deep dark grass was a really long garden hose, and the mower had tried to inhale it.
Now everything probably would have been fine if it had been a crappy inexpensive garden hose.  The mower would have just turned it into orange confetti and gone merrily on its way.

.

But no.  This was a tough, top-quality, made to last a lifetime type garden hose, so it just wound around and around and around until it jammed the mower blade and gave the mower a small stroke.


Here's a closer view of the wound-up part.  The pics are taken of the hose after my Dad cut it loose and we threw all the bits into the back of his truck.

Because, yeah, I had to call Dad to come rescue me again.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oh, hey, math

Ya know, I warned y'all that I can be a complete ditz at math.  Square roots, fine.  Find the volume of a truncated cone?  Fine.  Multiply a couple of numbers and add the sums?  Hmmm.
So, I was figuring out in this post how many nine-patches I'd need for my borders for the Starry Nine Patch (and by the way, from this moment forward, this quilt will be named Katie's Star Patch.  Because I decided.) and I doubled 15 and doubled 18 and added 4 for the corners and got an answer of 80.
And not one of you called me out on that answer?!?
Twice 15 is 30 and twice 18 is 36, and 30 + 36 +  4 is actually 70.  Not 80.
Luckily I was planning to make some extra nine-patches anyway, but still.  At least now I'll know when I'm done sewing triangles to nine-patches.  And I'll stop.  Whew.
I didn't bother to take any photos of the growing piles of nine-patches with triangles sewn to them.  They look the same as the ones in my last post, only there's more of them.
So, since I didn't actually need the center of Katie's Star Patch laid out anymore, I rolled it up and started using my Design Floor for my Garden Party, just to see how far I've gotten with it.
For a leaders-enders project, this thing is just sailing right along!


I keep a couple of hot cross buns blocks cut and lined up at all times (Though sometimes I have to work extra hard not to confuse them with the nine-patches I'm building.  Some of their construction points look remarkably similar...) and I've got stacks of orange nine-patches and squares at the ready.  I'm charmed by the fact that this is a quilt that's being built in the spaces.  It's like pulling blocks out of the air, fully formed and perfect and mysterious.  Sheer magic.
The other fun thing about this quilt is the sheer chaos of the fabrics.  I've got everything in there:  there's fabric from every decade from 1950 onward to just last month, plus some Civil War reproductions that I'd forgotten I had.




The only thing you won't find is 1930's reproductions.  And the only reason there aren't any of those in there is that I've never bought any, because I don't want to get them confused with the 1930's fabrics I have which are actually from the 1930's.  (My grandmother gave me fabric from her stash, as well as some blocks that her mother-in-law pieced back in the late 1920's or early '30's.   (When I come across them, I'll post pictures!))




And now we're at the point where Liz should close the post, because I'm about to talk about the swap quilt.


Ready?


No peeking.


(Unless you've changed your mind and really want to peek.  I'm okay with that.   Totally your choice.)


No going back now. 


Not kidding.


Five, four, three,


two, one...



Okay, here we go.  I pieced one more Ohio Star block and decided to set them on point.  (I'm just a sucker for on point.)  (You may have noticed that already.)  I assembled them with some blue squares and some madder paisley triangles.
And started dithering on the borders.  Of course.  Because that's what I do.
Here's the only mockup I took a photo of:


and a close up:


I'm going to sleep on it, but I think I like the narrow light paisley border, and then that dark blue.  I also auditioned a darkish brown with a tan ferny pattern on it, but it was sort of gloomy looking.  Gloomy isn't really the look I'm going for here.  Since the quilt group's focus is small quilts of Civil War antecedents, I'm trying to keep it in character and stifle my urges for zingy squirrely orange spiral prints, but I'm not wanting it to lean too far the other way, either.  Pretty.  That's what I'm going for.  Not gloomy.  Pretty.

Happy.  Happy works, too.





(Oops!  Forgot the most important thing!  Linking to Oh Scrap! at Quilting is more fun than Housework.  Go see all the pretties!)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Journey to Starry Nine Patch, with a brief sidetrip to Ohio


Now that the border decision has been made, the triangles and nine patches are flying along.  I had 57 nine patches left over from piecing the center unit and since I need 80 total for the borders, I've just got to sew a few more.  (For some values of 'a few'.)  (Because I'm planning to make 'a few' extras to guarantee variety, and because you can never have too many nine patches.)
And I'm madly sewing triangles to nine patches.  Stacks and stacks of triangles and nine patches.


And stacks.  And more stacks.


Since this is
mind-numbing 
slightly less interesting than some of the previous parts, I've started a small side project just to keep my brain fizzing.  (Wouldn't want those two hemispheres to get too comfy, now would I?)
And small is the key word here.  I'm in a small quilt group (that's small quilts, large group, btw) and we're doing a small quilt swap (again, small quilt, large swap).  (Adjectives are supposed to clarify things, right?  Hmmm...)
So anyway, if you answer 'yes' to all the following questions:

1. Is my name Liz?
2. Am I in the aforementioned small quilt swap?
3. Is my partner named Gayle?
4. Do I like surprises?

then you have to make a decision.  I'm about to reveal some of my work on the quilt for the swap, so if you want to be surprised, you should look no further on this post.

While you're deciding, the rest of us will look at this lovely bleeding heart that's blooming down at The Flat (which is where my sewing 'studio' is.):









Okay, everyone who answered 'no' to even one of the questions can now proceed.


Fair Warning.


Last chance...





I love quilts with stars.  (You may have guessed that already.)  Sawtooth stars, Lemoyne stars, 4-pointed stars, 6-pointed stars, 8-pointed stars, Friendship stars, Hunter's stars...  you get the idea.
A big favorite is the Ohio Star, and since I hadn't made one for a very long time, I figured it might be fun to make a small quiltful of them.
Experiments began.
I'm doing the cheating form of the hourglasses, where you just keep sewing squares on the diagonal until you end up with these:


Well, I guess it's not really cheating, but since it's so easy, it feels like cheating.  (Here's a nice tutorial, at a much larger scale than I'm working.)

I started with 2.5" squares, and ended up with 2" hourglass squares.  (Note:  I didn't use a full 1/4" seam allowance, because I wanted to see what the largest square I could end up with was.)
Then, just to be contrary, I trimmed down the hourglasses to 1.5" and pieced them into a star that finished at 3".



Right Brain was delighted.  "So cute!  So tiny!!  Let's make lots and lots!"
Left Brain was appalled.  "And so mathematical, yada yada, that's all very well, but let's be a little practical here.  Just how many fingers are going to be burnt in the process of pressing those little bitty 'so-cute' stars, hmmm???"
There's nothing wrong with practical, as long as you don't take it to excess.
So I made more hourglasses, which I didn't trim down to ridiculous proportions and made a block that will finish at 4.5", which is quite small enough, really.
Here's a picture of them side by side for comparison.



Yep, quite small enough.
I made some more:


and started playing with layouts.
Here we go again...




(And linking to 'Oh Scrap!' as usual - one of my new favorite hangouts!)

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's Border Time, or Right Brain and Left Brain Duke It Out with the Pythagorean Theorem

I've got a border.  Much math was invoked.  There were even square roots.

Here's the mockup:


And another view from a bit further back:


And an attempted closeup of the perfect border fabric I found (on sale, no less!)  (It's greener than it looks, but the dark factor is about right.)


That's where the math came in.  I'm running a 1" light border around the patchwork center, then a dark border of width-to-be-determined-through-math, then the on-point nine-patches set with orange triangles, then dark border again (easy math this time), then binding in orange.
The fun started with that inside dark border.  Pythagoras told me that my nine-patches on point measure  4.2526406871192851 inches tall and wide.  (I'm rounding it down to 4.25" just for fun.)  Figuring the size of the completed center plus the 1" light borders, and calculating how many diagonal nine-patches I'd need to cover that distance plus enough for a dark border wasn't all that hard - 15 nine patches across for the top and the bottom, and 18 on the sides (not counting corners) would work just fine.
Except for one thing.  The calculations showed that the vertical inner borders would have to be 3/8" narrower than the horizontal ones.
This is where my right brain and my left brain declared war on each other.
Left Brain was all "Okay, the dark border will be 3/8" wider on the top and the bottom than on the sides.  Two and 3/8" here and two and 3/4" there.  No problem."
And Right Brain was all "NOOOOO!!!  It'll be lopsided.  It'll show and every part of it will look wrong.  It'll be out of balance.  It'll look like robots did it.  No.  Just no."
So then Left Brain was "Oh, stop whining.  We'll just  make the light borders on the top and bottom 3/8" wider - that won't be so obvious.  We were going to use those leftover 1.5" strips, but we can cut some extra strips to finish at 3/8", so that means starting with 7/8" strips.  One border of 1.5" and one at 7/8" will finish to 1 3/8".  Easy peasy."
So then Right Brain comes back with "Red.  The 3/8" borders in red.  So it looks like it's on purpose.  That'll be great.  Yep, red.  Or purple.  No, definitely red."
And Left Brain was "Nope nope nope, that's ridiculous.  Your ideas are stupid."  and Right Brain would have bopped Left Brain right on the nose at that point if I hadn't intervened.
"Look, both of you just back down and chill out.  First of all, I'm using 4.25" for my calculations but the actual measurement is 4.2526406871192851 - do you think that .0026406871192851 times 18 might not come back to bite my ass?  And besides, do you honestly think I can sew 18 nine-patches, on point, set with at least 36 bias-y triangles, and actually be so accurate that I'm only going to be off by 3/8 of an inch?"
That shut them up.
So the plan (because I often pretend I have a plan) is to piece all my nine-patches for the borders, and THEN calculate what widths I'll need for the dark borders.
Because I'm an empiricist, not a theoretician.  That whole "If my calculations are correct, this might work" doesn't hold a candle to "Let's just do it and then measure it afterward."



(Whoopee!  There's another fantastic scrap gathering!  Go visit Scraptastic Tuesday at Mrs Sew and Sow's for all kinds of gorgeousness!)


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Argh!!!

I just noticed that the full picture of the Starry Nine Patch center has vanished from my last post!
Crap!

Here ya go:





Or maybe this one:

These are taken by holding the camera over my head and standing on tiptoe, by the way.  I gotta get a real design wall instead of this design floor...

Oh, and I found the perfect dark for the borders today.  Now for the math!

Friday, May 8, 2015

I was starting to doubt this day would come

I got all those little honking squares sewn together!


Now for the borders.
Which means I'm at a point where I'm actually going to have to think.
Yay.

 Last time I said I'd tried some practice border layouts, and shared this one with you.  (Sunbeam extra.  Void where prohibited.)


I also experimented with a bunch of other ideas, involving both the nine patches and the mountain blocks.  In all my experiments, I first laid down a light color strip in order to float the patchwork.  I plan to use lots of different lights for yet more scrap-happiness.
I tried various combinations.
Mountains facing out

  

and mountains facing in.



 Mountains combined in various ways with nine patches, with and without narrow dark borders thrown in.

3






5

That last one has possibilities...


Today I got down to some heavy duty playing, what with finishing all that patchwork.  This is getting serious now.
This might be the one...

6

or maybe this variation of it...

7

with another dark (ish?  narrow?) border around the outside, and a dark binding.  Or maybe an orange binding, though the back is going to be mainly orange, so I'm thinking a different color for the binding might be nice.
 Sing out with whatever you're thinking.  I'm always happy to get some input.  I'll be taking a few days to make a decision - after all this time, I'm not going to rush into anything hasty!


And with all those blocks being sewn together, I had ample opportunity for leaders-enders.  (I assemble one row at a time.  I've tried multiple rows simultaneously, and the time I spent second-guessing whether I was making a mistake or not made the whole enterprise less time-saving than it should have been.  One at a time may not be the most efficient way, but it works best for me.)
So, in amongst building more blocks, I puzzled out how to piece the side triangles.


And the blocks keep piling up!
When I started the project, I intended to just make enough for a throw - something to cuddle under in a chair by the woodstove.  But the blocks are so much fun to make that I'm having a hard time stopping.  I'm starting to worry that I'll end up with a house cozy...



http://quiltingismorefunthanhousework.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Not completely devoid of knitting content



Though I will admit that I've lost my sense of urgency for warm woolies once the temperatures hit the 70s every day...

I'm still plugging along on my Bramblewood vest, though not without problems.


Right now it's sitting in timeout.  (Actually, I'm the one who should be in timeout, but it's not big enough to send me, so there.)  Things were going smoothly round and round until the last time I got to the cable section on the center back.  Something didn't look right.  I checked the cable section at center front and discovered that this round should have been a cable round, but I'd knitted a plain one.  Drat!  I started tinking back to the center front to have another go at it.
Unfortunately, I got interrupted.  No idea what it was, but the upshot is that I dropped my knitting into the basket and wandered off.  The next time I reached for the knitting, I forgot that I was supposed to be going in reverse and just blithely started knitting away.  Until I got to the cable section at the center back again.  Double drat!  Drat drat drat in mighty drattiness!  So I started tinking back again, and (you guessed it) got interrupted again.
But hey!  I'm getting smarter - I only knit a couple of inches the third time before I realized I should STILL be going in reverse...

So, let's talk about alpacas instead!
Saturday was the big shearing day for Wicked Good Stepmother's alpacas.  The shearers, consisting of a mom, a dad, and the three kids, arrived with mats and muscles and got down to business.

The muscles came in handy.



Not that alpacas are stubborn or anything.  Or dumb.  Unh unh. 


Lovely cooperative intelligent creatures, each and every one.


(We won't talk about the fact that this gray one peed on the girl's leg while she was trying to hold it steady...)






  Soon all four had their new spring haircuts and were looking pretty spiffy.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of them at the spiffy stage, since they all had a good roll in the dirt as soon as they were released back in their pasture.  At that point they just looked like four big dustballs, so I went back to helping gather up fleece.
I really need to get that spinning wheel going, don't I?