Thursday, January 21, 2021

I Like #197

 What a wonderful day yesterday was! My lab members and I crowded around our laptops at work watching the inauguration, the whole thing was wonderful and very moving.  I tend to be susceptible to ceremony in general (weddings, funerals, etc), but I thought it was great.  Constant reminders that we are still in the worst of a pandemic but with hope!  And personally it made me so happy to see VP Kamala Harris sworn in by Justice Sotomayor.  A shining example for all of us and all our kids that women can be in the highest echelons of government.  

I didn't take many pictures this week, mostly just the puppy.  I snuggle with all three of them on the couch almost every night, but my arm isn't long enough to get the four of us into a single selfie.

He unballed a WHOLE ball of yarn in the backyard, through the doggie door, around the chair.  It was attached to my knitting, but luckily didn't hurt the kniting.

I cast on a new pair of socks this week.  I haven't knit socks in a while so it's fun to have these going!

I blogged about several other knitting projects this week, you can see them here and here.

And, although the inauguration is an important and sober and joyful event,  I couldn't help laughing when my student sent me this meme last night.  Definitely resonated....

Click over to Lee Anna's for more things to like this week!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Summit Shawl

 Well I guess it's the time for knitting updates!  I did a lot of knitting this past year, and this was the last project for me off the needles in 2020.  Of course I didn't get around to blocking it until last week, so here we are.  

The pattern is the Summit Shawl by Mandie Harrington, and she has kindly made the pattern available for free on Ravelry.  I was drawn to the modern geometric shapes and to the really cool dropped stitch patterns.  It's worked in short rows and was a really good knit for zoom meetings.   The only challenge with a short row pattern is that a couple of times I couldn't remember which way the overall row was going and started off in the wrong direction!

The yarn is a silk linen blend (thanks Georgia!) and I still have some left so it'll probably re-appear in something else in the future.  It was good to work with and has a nice sort of rough-hewn vibe I like.

I always wind up setting up the camera on a tripod with a timer to take these pictures so it always feels weird, but I like to have pictures of how things look worn, and that's something I'm always looking for on ravelry, especially with regards to sweater patterns and stuff where I like seeing it on someone with my same shape.  Of course usually the pups join the photoshoot, and this time it was Spooky.

I like the way this turned out-  I might have been better off going a little longer so there was more to wrap around, but it felt pretty large already and I was ready to move onto something else.  The yarn is very comfortable, a good weight for not-too-cold times.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Knitting Update! (Mostly Christmas presents)

 I'm so far behind on blogging, but I thought I'd take today to give an update on a bunch of mostly small knitting projects from December.  I've really been enjoying knitting a lot these past few months, and after some complicated lace knitting earlier in the year I transitioned to some mostly simpler and smaller projects more recently.

The largest of these was the Marksbury Wrap.  This was a project my good friend Trish started right before she died about a year and a half ago.  Her daughter Caitlin asked if our church knitting group would finish it for her and we agreed.  We passed it around among group members for a while each working on it a bit, and then this fall my friend Melody and I spearheaded getting it finished up.  At first I didn't care for the yarn, but I got used to it and it turned out a lovely and soft.  I'm not sure whether it's the yarn or the needles, but it's a bit narrower than the pattern makes it look, more like a scarf than a wrap, but definitely warm and cozy.  I love the rainbow colors and it was a great opportunity to think of Trish.

I also knitted up a quick washcloth as a small stocking stuffer, but concluded from the experience that I much prefer crocheting washcloths to knitting them, and somehow I don't seem to have a picture of it.  

One of the other projects I did earlier in the fall was this knit colorwork headband.  I'd never done stranded (Fair Isle) colorwork before and it was a big challenge!  I got a little better as I went along, but still not great.  I'm a continental knitter, and it was very very hard for me to tension the yarn in my right hand so that I could knit with both colors at once.  I thought the headband came out nice, and I even lined it, but I guess my gauge was way off.  It was supposed to be a present for my mom, but evidently she has a very small head, and it was so big it kept sliding off her head.  It's a little too big even for me, so I think I might find somewhere to donate it and then knit her something else.

And then in a huge coincidence, right before Christmas, mom suggested that we knit Fair Isle Christmas ornaments while I was home for the holidays.  I wasn't sure we'd have time, but since it was only the three of us (me, Mom and Dad), we actually did a fair amount of knitting.  It was fun to get to practice more stranded colorwork on small projects.  There's still room for improvement, but at least now I feel like I can successfully carry yarn in both hands, and I'm getting better (though still slow) at picking up floats.  The pink/taupe and blue/white ornaments are mine and the red/white one is moms.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

I Like #196

 Well I'm late again and things are beyond crazy at work, but I guess being here is good enough sometimes.

Things to like! Puppies, knitting, cactus and cactus seeds (I'm going to try to grow them)!

Empty cactus fruits I harvested seeds from

My beloved puppy and other pups.  They make life better!

I love this instagram account.  Always funny takes on dog thoughts.

Good knitting progress this week:

And I had a chance to blog about my last quilt for 2020 and the ornaments I made this year, so check those out if you're interested.

Click over to LeeAnna's for more things to like!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Ornaments 2020

I make ornaments for friends and family every year, and this year I went very traditional.  I'd been doing more embroidery this year, but mostly freeform things. And then for some reason I was inspired to do some cross-stitch.  Cross-stitch was the first embroidery I learned and I did a fair amount of it in middle and high school, but eventually found it tedious and turned my creative juices to something else.  Well after a 25 year break I picked it up again.  I tried working on a large Christmas cross-stitch project I set down barely started all those years ago, but only made it about 30 minutes before I was struggling to keep my place in the large pattern. 

Instead I started making ornaments using scraps of Aida cloth I found in my bin.  It was a blast!  I had so much fun- the patterns were easy and simple enough to finish in one or two sittings.  I loved using up scraps.  I used scrap threads too, so there are lots of color changes and color variations. I found a great variety of quality and ease-of-use in my fabric scraps too.  The blue was a bit schlubby and uneven, it was leftover from a crewel work kit (even though it's an even weave meant for counted work?) and wasn't the best quality.  Then I found a scrap of white that was just lovely to work on.  Finally the last one was on a scrap with teeny-tiny squares (and of course what I had left was the densest pattern) and I struggled a bit with that one.  

The first two I finished with a binding, but I wasn't super crazy about that, so the rest I finished more or less following this approach.  Basically you make a running stitch around the cross stitch and backing fabric and then cinch them up around two pieces of mat board like yo-yos.  I like that it makes them stiff.

This was the last cross stitch one I did, and unfortunately Spooky chewed on it for a good long while.  I rescued the embroidery (though not the hoop) and after a good soaking got out most of the weird brown back staining from the slobber and wood.

I also made a bunch of these cute hat ornaments for some more friends,  they seemed so wintery and fun and I enjoyed using up a bunch of yarn scraps.

While deciding what ornaments to make this year I thought about doing something really 2020ish.  I'd seen lots of mask and COVID ornaments but just couldn't bring myself to do any like that.  But I was super glad when my sister made really cute 2020 ornaments to give us.  You can see one there in my mom's left hand, it's a really cute "virus" ornament with bead spikes and a mask.  An adorable commemoration of a completely un-adorable year.

I really enjoy making ornaments;  it satisfies my crafty urges without generating more things we all have to dust and find a place for (except on the tree!).

Monday, January 11, 2021

Last New Quilt of 2020: No More Dark Sky

 The final call of the year for our art quilt group 4 Common Corners was "Bright Sky: Dark Sky".  Where I grew up in New Mexico, the skies are the brightest clearest blue you ever saw, and up in the rural areas at high altitude, the nights were dark and the sky gazing was amazing.  In contrast, now I live at low altitude in a biggish city and the light pollution is terrible.  There are hardly any visible stars (comparatively) and there is never complete darkness.  The most the sky gets is a dark muddy brown.

As a result, I decided to take light pollution as my theme for the Bright Sky: Dark Sky challenge.  In addition to obscuring star gazing, light pollution is bad for other reasons.  It can impair astronomical observations, and can disrupt the circadian rhythms of a variety of plant and animal life.  This can cause subsequent physiological changes and severely disrupt ecosystems.  A couple of years ago while visiting a national park (I can't remember which one- Glacier maybe?) we heard a park ranger talk about the dangers of light pollution to the local ecosystems  (even inside relatively low population, non-urban parks) and about the things the park service was doing to try to combat it.

The quilt is meant to go from the "dark sky" characterized by deep purple/black background and clear sparkling stars and transition into the muddied brown skies so characteristic of my urban areas.  I decided to use my silhouette to cut layers designed to stack up like this piece, but it had to be flat so I just quilted the layers to the surface rather than stacking them out into the third dimension.

This was my original fabric pull; I started with a dark purple velvet fabric to use as my background and then grabbed a variety of different fabrics to use with it.  They're all clothing or decorator fabrics, some silk, some polyester, some brown suiting with pale brown pinstripe (somehow I have yards and yards of this), some black sheer swiss dot, some ravely silver lame, and a buch of other random things.  One of my favorites was that piece of gold with black velous embossed flowers?  I'm sure it's polyester and I never knew what to do with it, but it reminds me of that 70s wallpaper where there were fuzzy floral or repeating elements that were fun to touch in my grandmother's house.

There are three panels in the quilt, and each panel has four cut out applique layers that pile on top of each other.  In the bottom of the picture below you can see the first four layers and in the top of that picture you see the second four layers.

In this case, I wanted the "frame" from the silhouette cutter for the quilt, after I pulled it off I was left with all these little pieces.  I saved them all and will use them up in something.

This is the final quilt. It was extremely hard to photograph, what looks like white in the top panel is actually silver but was so reflective it was impossible to get a good picture, especially when the rest of the piece was so dark.  The top panel is meant to be bright clear stars in a dark sky.  The four layers line up in concentric rings with crisp clear colors.  As you go down, the colors and the alignment of the shapes and layers gets progressively muddier, more like our urban skies.

No More Dark Sky, c. Shannon Conley, 2020, 42" x 28"

In this up close shot you can see the four different layers in the bottom panel.  The edges of each panel were really uneven, so I covered the edges up by couching several layers of fuzzy yarn around each rectangle.  To make that seem more like a design element, I also couched vertical lines of yarn down the side borders and used the same yarns to finish the quilt edges.

This quilt was truly awful to work on and make.  It was for an end-of-year deadline and I really wanted to finish it before Thanksgiving.  But I had constant (CONSTANT!) struggles with the quilting.  I decided not to back all the layers with fusible because I didn't want to quilt through six layers of fabric plus four layers of fusible, but then with only a little bit of fusible holding down the floppy layers, getting them to stay put during quilting was virtually impossible.  Then I decided to use the same purple velvet for the back as I did for the base layer, so it was extremely difficult to rip out stitching.  But the worst is that my sewing machine basically died while quilting this.  I couldn't go more than 8 or 10 inches without my thread shredding.  I tried everything, different threads, different needles, different fabrics, different tension, cleaning the machine, nothing worked.  It was miserable to quilt and made me discouraged about doing anything.  I figured it was just all my weird fabrics, but I took it home over Thanksgiving to finish at my mom's and it quilted JUST FINE on my mother's sewing machine.  I was so so frustrated.  By the end I almost hated the thing.  I'm still really interested in the theme, and maybe someday I'll make something else in this vein that won't have so many bad vibes bottled up inside it.

As a coda on the sewing machine front; after getting home from Thanksgiving, I tried to sew something else, and my machine just completely quit.  It wouldn't even sew a straight line much less quilt.  I was so aggravated, I put it in time out for the whole month of December and didn't sew anything until Christmas except to finish the gift bag (that's what I was sewing with a straight stitch when it died completely) using my small backup machine.  I was really worried it had completely died and I was trying to decide if I would need to buy a new domestic machine for quilting or save up to invest in a table-mounted longarm or what.  All very unpleasant.  I haven't been particularly pleased with the Janome service here, but my mom really likes her Janome dealer in New Mexico, so I figured I'd make an appointment with her person and drop it off there when I was home for Christmas just to see if they could do anything.

It turns out there were like a million things wrong with it.  It was a bit gratifying since the worst thing is to have a machine that won't sew and a service professional who can't figure out what's wrong.  The laundry list included several broken things that the guy said he'd never seen before, some things that he thinks were errors from previous servicing, and some things that were related to normal wear or bad practice on my part.  He was able to fix all of it for me (though with a warning that some pieces were hand made to avoid having to replace the whole tension unit so that might be coming in future) and he got it back to me in just two days (OVER CHRISTMAS) in time for me to quilt on it quite a bit over the holidays and now it is working well.  So SUPER SUPER shout out to Eugene and Jackie at A Quilting Stitchuation in Ruidoso New Mexico.  If anyone is traveling through southern New Mexico I encourage you to stop by there.  Even though Ruidoso is a very small town, it's a very big quilt store with tons of fabric (I bought some and some sparkly rainbow vinyl-who knows what I'll do with that), notions, and all the other stuff you'd expect, in addition to being a regionally known Janome dealer.  As of right now they are open, but are using good COVID practices, and I think you can also order some things for them online.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

I Like #195

 Well maybe the best thing to like about today is that we got through the appalling wretchedness of yesterday. 

I returned from my parents' on Sunday so this week has been a combination of the last few days of vacation and then the tumult of back to work.  My windshield got a crack on the way to NM, and last night my garage door opener broke (my fault I think), so now I'm dealing with those two things.

We were able to take a last hike the day before I left.  It was cold and brisk with gorgeous NM blue skies.  We hiked out near Fort Stanton, a place with a long and varied history, but the hike went by some abandoned/ruined parts of the fort I'd never been to.  Apparently during the second world war there was a German POW camp here (the buildings seen below), and very sadly, an internment camp for Japanese Americans.  

The hike itself was lovely with beautiful mountain views and an iced over stream. A good way to end a nice (if very unusual) Christmas holiday.

When I got home to my pile of mail I discovered this adorable crocheted Rudolph bookmark from my friend Rahel in Switzerland.  He reminds me a little of Max from the Grinch!  She's super sweet to have sent it, and it certainly brightened my day after a long boring drive.

The pups did fine on the trip home and are doing well.  I didn't snap any in-focus pictures of them this week; lots of cuteness but no good posing.  Spooky has discovered he's big enough to jump up on the bed, so when I let him out of his crate in the morning as soon as he potties he wants to get right up in bed with me.  I'm pretty adamant about no dogs in the bed, so we just all get up. 

After I took down the Christmas decorations I re-hung some different quilts over the piano.  This is one of the main walls where I hang rotating quilts and I thought these two ecology-inspired pieces would look good there together.

I also got a couple of 2020 year-in-review blog posts up.  It's all stuff you've seen before, but in case you feel like a browse through my projects of the past year, you can see the art quilts here, and other things here.

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy!  Click over to LeeAnna's for more things to like!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

2020 Other Crafty Goodness

I shared about my 2020 art quilts earlier in the week, and here I want to just year-in-review some of the non-art quilt things I worked on this year.  I like having these look-back posts, they provide a chance to review what I've accomplished and a way to refine my artistic goals going forward.

I had more knitting and crochet projects than usual, including some that didn't make this list because they're not actually finished (still need blocking and blogging).  I did a lot of knitting this year, and I feel like the increase in knitting is a direct response to COVID.  Partly because staying home gave more time for knitting, partly because I knit on basic stuff pretty much constantly during zoom meetings, and partly because knitting felt like a creative outlet when I didn't have much mental energy for designing art quilts.  I feel like I've learned a lot of new knitting skills this year too, and I look forward to more in future.  This was also the year I took back up embroidery in a bigger way.  Again it was something I did while home alone (more) and was something I could do on work zooms. 

 Cotton Candy Shawligan

Jelly Roll Socks

Uncia Shawl

Magic Shell Shawl

Colorwork Headband

Trish's Scarf

Embroidered Prayer Book Cover

Summer Reading and Stitching Club

Baby Quilt for Priya

Baby Quilt for Janet

Red White and Blue Quilt

Chi Rho Banner for Tamra 

New Laptop Bag