Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Bathroom Reno - Done! (mostly)

Al and Chris finished up the job today. There is still a wall cabinet to install when it comes in and the glass for the shower to install when it is ready in a couple of weeks. I repaired a wonky shelf in the closet and Skip and I are loading it back up with all our stuff.

Before - - - it was a 1983 ensuite bath with brown, faux-tile, patterned sheet flooring. The 4' countertop was swirly brown arborite and the chipped and rusting enamel sink and enormous 5' x 42" Jacuzzi tub were bright blue. There was no shower! The only thing that wasn't replaced was the toilet. We replaced the original, blue toilet (and the other two toilets in the house) about 15 years ago, shortly after we moved in, when our regional municipality had a water conservation program to replace the old big-tanked toilets with more water efficient 6 litre toilets. Basically, the homeowner paid for the toilet and the region paid the plumbing costs.

After - - - the Jacuzzi was removed and a 4' tiled shower enclosure was installed with a half-wall between it and the new 5' granite-topped vanity with new, white porcelain, undercounter-mounted sink. The floor of the bathroom and adjoining walk-in closet were tiled with porcelain tile matching that in the shower enclosure. A new light fixture, towel rods, toilet paper holder and motion- and moisture-sensing fan were also installed. A mirror matching the vanity with crown molding on the top was also installed. A wall cabinet to match the vanity will be installed above the toilet for yet more storage.

I have painted the walls to match the shower tile so for a monochromatic look. The contrasts are in the espresso vanity and multi-toned granite countertop. I will be purchasing rich-coloured, dark brown towels. For a further contrast, I will be a painting the trim a bright white.

My vision was a spa-like ensuite bath.  Here are some before and after photos. Remember, the shower glass and door isn't installed yet. How did I do?

This evening, we discovered a new, interesting, electrical problem. When we turn the light off in the bathroom, it also kills the power to the outlet in our bedroom where the TV is plugged in.

So I guess I'll be seeing Al and Chris again soon to fix that.

Aside from that, I'm very pleased with the result.

Friday, 27 July 2012


6 of our Monarchs reached adultood today. That is, they metamorphosed from chrysalis to butterfly. Back on July 1, I started collecting milkweed leaves that had eggs on them. If I had left them on the plant outside to hatch, they'd make tasty snack for the earwigs. That day, the first caterpillar hatched. It was about 3mm long.
A day later...

One by one, the rest of them hatched. They ate and grew and pooped until they were about 5cm long and then, one by one, they spun silk-like fibres anchoring them in place in preparation for the change from larva to chrysalis.

Yesterday morning, I noticed the first one had come out of its chrysalis. (You can see how low-tech cultivating them is)
It took several hours before it was ready to fly away. The wings stretch out and dry leaving an couple of orange drops of liquid beneath it. I moved the jar outdoors with the lid off.
When Skip came home from golf he felt the butterfly was struggling to get out of the jar so he put a twig in the jar and fairly soon thereafter, the butterfly climbed out of the jar.
A few hours later, it flew over to our potted rosemary plant.
The black dots on the vein of the wings mean that this one is a male. He also was rather large.

Last night I noticed there were several others getting ready to emerge.
They look darker because the black of the wings is starting to show through the chrysalis as it becomes clear.

Here they were this morning.
This one climbed on my finger when I was trying to transfer it from the lid to the twig.
By 1pm, a total of 6 had emerged. We have two left to go. It'll probably happen in the next couple of days or so.

They grow up so fast...

Monday, 23 July 2012

Houndstooth Baby Quilt

I finished sewing the binding onto the houndstooth baby quilt yesterday.
I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I love how the outlines of the animals on the back are the same colours as the dots on the black fabric. I also like how the animal outlines look like those "Silly Bands".
When I went to the fabric store to buy the binding fabric, it took me a long time to decide what colour to use. The green fabric didn't exactly match the elephant's colour, the gold wasn't quite right for the bear's colour. There was a nice, deep purple fabric but there are only purple dots on the front but not any purple animals on the back. So I decided on the yellow. It was an exact match for the giraffe colour and a good contrast for the white and black on the front.
With my new machine, I can do a bit of embroidery using letters so I stitched the baby's name at each corner.
... and more close up...
I was going to do the whole border like that but it didn't hold the edge of the binding down so I hand-stitched the binding on. Normally I would have sewn the binding onto the front of the quilt and handstitched the other edge onto the back but I initially had hoped to machine stitch it all binding back to front. But when I tried machine-stitching the binding onto the front, it looked really crappy so I took it out and handstitched it.

I learned a lot doing this quilt. I learned that I probably should have used invisible thread for the quilting of the front because it was impossible not to have the white machine-quilting stitches show up on the black. Owen's mother is a skilled seamstress so I hope my machine-quilting doesn't drive her crazy. I learned that I should have sewn the binding onto the front and then handstitched it on the back instead of the other way around. I learned how to use the stitch memory on my new sewing machine, enabling me to do the personalizing.

I went to a 'tent sale' at a sewing shop in Oshawa on Saturday. I picked up some nifty fabric on sale to make Skip a pair of boxer shorts for lounging around the house.
I also did a wonky personalized label machine-stitching the letters onto twill tape. The apostrophe looked crappy so I picked out its stitches.
The sewing shop also runs lots of classes and doesn't discriminate by sewing machine company even though they are Husqvarna, Baby Lock and Janome dealers. If I see something interesting in their fall offerings, I'll be signing up for sure.

Now, back to some knitting...

Monday, 16 July 2012


Today is the first day of our ensuite bathroom renovation. We have lived with this hideous glorified powder room for the past 16 years and we finally got our butts in gear and hired a contractor for the job. Here are a couple of 'before' pictures.

The blue Jacuzzi tub is 29 years old and is an eyesore.
 Our hot water heater wasn't even big enough to fill it with enough hot water to cover the jets. Strangely, there was no shower installed when the whirpool tub was put in so we've operated all these years with only 1 shower in the main bathroom (which will be renovated next). The blue toilet was replaced shortly after we moved in with a white 6L toilet so it will just be put back into place after the renovation. The blue enamel sink in the bathroom has cracked and rusted and the faucet has been leaking for a while.
It will be nice to have a fresh new bathroom again.

This what has been accomplished thus far.
To entertain myself while all hell breaks loose, I swatched and cast on a new cardigan project. It's the Cabled Cardigan from Fall 2010 Vogue Knitting.

Mo gave me a garbage bag full of Evergreen Aran yarn after her destashing - probably about 80 50g balls altogether. The label says 95% wool and 5% 'other fibres'. However on Ravelry it says it contains cashmere, wool and cotton.  There were about 36  50g balls of the pink yarn - more than enough to knit a sweater. I prefer a raglan sleeve and found the Cabled Cardigan on Ravely. Fortunately, I already owned the magazine so I was able to commence swatching right away. I had to do a little math to figure out what size I should knit. Instinct tells me to knit the XL size but my gauge was looser so I went down a size. I think it's really sized to be used as a jacket and I will really just use it as a sweater over a long sleeved tee shirt in the winter. There should be about 3" of positive ease completely unstretched. I also want to modify the neckline and make a v-neck like the Must Have Cardigan I knit a couple of years ago.

I will also make it shorter than the pattern calls for so the bottom is at the hip rather than below. I'm also not doing pockets.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


I've been doing some tidying up in my office in preparation for our bathroom reno which is beginning on Monday. I need to be able to pile all my clothes in here so I needed to get a lot of my yarn and fibre stash put away to make room for the clothes. In the process, I unearthed a bag containing the squares from the Great American Aran Afghan that I finished knitting a couple of years ago. When I put the project away the last time, I had already sewn blocks into strips of 5 blocks each. So all I had to do was sew the 4 strips together. It only took a couple of hours during some TV time this evening. I'll take some better photos in tomorrow's daylight.
Now I just need to knit the border. Checking out the GAAAaaaaaaaaaa Group on Ravelry, I searched for some border options and happened upon this one, a garter-eyelet edging, suggested by Susan Rainey, the designer of the 'Aran sweater' square. 

What I like about this border is the eyelet rows alternate with the garter stitch rows and giving it a bit more visual interest than the garter ridges around each square, and the fact that I don't have to put all the peripheral stitches on one or two honkin' circular needles to do the border.I will knit each side separately and then bind off the sts using the same strand of yarn. Then I'll sew the corners together.

So when I checked my Projects page in Ravelry to see when I had actually finished knitting the last block, it was July 13, 2009. Exactly three years ago today! How freaky is that? I'm also shocked it's been three years since I finished the knitting and the bag of squares has been sitting in the closet that long.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Matryoshka Revealed

I had lunch today with a couple of former colleagues, Dika and Suzanne. Suzanne had invited me to celebrate her 50th birthday on a Baltic cruise this summer and I was all set to go when Skip had a medical issue come up which necessitated that I cancel the cruise. Another one of Suzanne's lucky friends is going in my place.

When I found the Matryoshka fabric at JoAnn's last month I thought it was perfect for someone going on a cruise of the Baltic.
The ship will be in port in St. Petersburg, Russia for two days. And everyone needs a zippered bag or two for travel items. So I made a toiletries bag with a vinyl (ironed onto fabric) lining and a second smaller bag for cosmetics, jewellery, electronic cords or other sundries.
I made teeny weeny bias tape stitched down the centre to use for the zipper pulls.
I successfully calculated the correct distance above the heads for the seam allowance for the zipper.
I learned a lot with ironing on the vinyl to the turquoise lining fabric. It wrinkled a bit when I was turning it wrong side out. But it will still be effective.
They're SO cute (if I do say so myself). I have enough fabric to make a couple for myself.

Stealth Sewing

I spent this evening sewing a couple of stealth projects using some very cute fabric that I bought on my last stash-building foray to the US of A.
I got to use iron-on vinyl (which costs WAY more here than at JoAnn's) and two more presser feet on my new sewing machine for the projects.

All will be revealed soon....

Also, I have finished piecing the blocks for the Falling into Autumn Quilt. I now have to create 96 squares from pairs of half triangles which will be one of the borders.

Tomorrow I'm going to order the tile for our upcoming ensuite bathroom renovation and while I'm in that vicinity, I'll go to the Bernina store and pick up an extension table for my new baby. Contrary to what I was told, the metal bobbins I used with my old sewing machine work perfectly fine with the new one. I don't have to replace them all - YAY!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Every 39 Years ...

Back in 1973, after my first year of university, I bought a used White sewing machine at Al's Sewing Machine Sales and Service on Mitton St. in Sarnia.
I used my income tax refund and paid $43, if I recall correctly. I also bought a used Filter Queen vacuum cleaner there in 1986. Al's is still in business today.
The White weighed a ton. It had forward, reverse and zigzag stitches and came with a regular presser foot and a zipper foot. It was a real workhorse machine and could do pretty much anything I needed it to do. I only had to have it repaired once (the bobbin wasn't winding properly) and only had it serviced a couple of times in the intervening years.

I went through sewing phases on and off over the next 39 years. I did some quilting, sewed some of my own clothes while I was in university, made gifts, etc. In the last few years,  I have used it mostly to repair garments and shorten Skip's pants.

Recently, however, I have become rather interested in sewing again. Mo inspired me when she bought a new sewing machine and started building a fabric stash and I've been building a stash of my own. I had some intermittent tension issues with the White but got them solved by re-threading the machine and bobbin on the advice of my friend, Dianne. Where I hit an impasse was in contemplation of machine quilting the houndstooth baby quilt. I didn't have a walking foot for the White and frankly, I wanted to get a newer machine with a few more features.

I've been pricing Janome, Baby Lock and Bernina machines. Last week I spoke to a Bernina repairer and he recommended the Bernina B 215. It's an entry level to the higher end machines. But the price was several hundred dollars more than I wanted to pay. In my usual fashion, I went in search of a 'deal'. Then, fortuitously, I received an email from The Quilt Store (and The Yarn Store) in Newmarket that they were having a sale on their Bernina sewing machines.

Dianne and I went up there yesterday and when I inquired about the B 215, they didn't have any in stock but they did have the 220 AND it was $600 less than listed on their website and $400 less than the lowest price I was quoted for the B 215. So I bought it! It is practically the same machine as the 230 and 240. The reason it is so affordable is that many of the accessories are extra and they come with the more expensive machines in the series. I purchased a 1/4" foot but once I got the machine home, I realized I could just move the needle over a bit and get a 1/4" seam using the regular presser foot. I'm going to keep the 1/4" foot, though. I really do need a walking foot, though and bought one on online which should arrive sometime in the next couple of weeks. I'm also going to have to buy a quilting table and I haven't been able to find one online so will have to go to the local Bernina dealer to get one.
The 220 has 60 stitches plus a basic alphabet, needle up and down feature, metal hook bobbin like my old White, and a needle threader. That last feature is a godsend for my  middle-aging eyes.

It also weighs significantly less than the old machine and would definitely be portable enough to take on say, an extended winter holiday.

Hopefully it'll be 39 more years before I need another one.

While I wait for the walking foot to come in, I cut out and started piecing the Falling into Autumn quilt that I bought from Connecting Threads a few months back.
Today I started sewing the strips together to make the blocks. They're then trimmed 8 1/2" square.
The stem is appliqued on before the blocks are sewn together.

I'm really liking the new (much quieter!)  machine.

In weaving news, I finished warping the loom at Windreach Farm last Wednesday in the blistering heat. Karen helped me move the loom out onto the deck where at least a breeze was apparent from time to time.
I'm pretty slow but methodically got the warp threaded through the heddles and then sleyed the reed.
I discovered a couple of mistakes which I was able to fix without too much trouble before I tied the ends onto the front beam.We then set up the outer two pedals for plain weaving and the inner 4 pedals for twill.
This is only the second time I've warped a loom like this (not rigid heddle) so I was pretty stoked that it all worked out OK. Now that I've shared the thimbleful of knowledge that I have gleaned from my two weaving lessons, the volunteers can demonstrate weaving, thus completing the sheep to shawl cycle right there at the farm.

Last night, I finished my dishcloth sampler project on the loom I have borrowed from Paula. I hemstitched the ends and cut it off the loom. I then folded each end over and sewed it down, thus securing the warp threads.I'm all set for Show and Tell on Monday at spinning.
In addition to the three that I finished on Friday night, I used a basketweave stitch on the fourth one. Basically, I did a plain weave but ran the warp through twice before changing shafts. I  made sure to enter over the floating end and exit under it.My edges are getting a lot more even and smooth.
I had enough on the warp left to do one more so I just finished up the remainder of the weft yarn (Bernat Cottontots) with lightly beaten plain weave.
Once the loom is warped, the weaving goes very quickly. I really like the fabric created by the worsted weight cotton. The warp only took about 112 yards (2 yd x 56 ends) and the weft only took about 90 yards (8.5" wide x 9 picks per inch, 42.5" long all divided by 36).

It seems that a lot of yarn is used for the warp and there is some waste but the weft doesn't use nearly as much yarn as one would think. 

This cotton worsted would  make a really nice bathmat using the plain weave or basketweave and a nice thick one using the twill weave. Unless I want to piece squares together for a bath mat, I'll just have to get a wider loom.

Friday, 6 July 2012


My knitterly friend, Paula, kindly loaned me her 8-shaft table loom. I ordered a lovely shuttle, bobbins and reed hook from Paradise Fibers on the recommendation of my spinnerly friend, Karen, as their postage was really inexpensive. They arrived on Wednesday.

Today I finally had time to warp the loom. I decided to use some worsted weight cotton from my stash but I didn't have enough blue or white for the whole warp so I devised a pattern using both colours.
I made a raddle from a piece of painted wood that had been replaced from our deck and nailed in finishing nails every inch. It worked great.
For a bobbin winder, I used my cordless screwdriver with enough paper wrapped around the bit to fit the bobbin. The yarn shown was from a different project that I thought I'd try and decided against.
For the weft, I used worsted weight Bernat Cottontots yarn in a white, blue, green and yellow colourway.

First, I used some thin crochet cotton for what will be the hem. Then I started  a plain weave beating quite firmly for a weft-faced effect. I really liked how it was turning out with the striped warp and complimentary colours in the weft.
After 8 inches (20 cm), I inserted the thin cotton spacer and did plain weave again, this time beating much more lightly for a balanced weave.
And a little closer.
After another spacer, I did a twill pattern with 15 picks in one direction and then 15 in the other, again beating quite firmly.
I still have enough warp to do one more dishcloth but I packed it in for tonight.

Tomorrow, I'm heading up to Newmarket with the rumour of a sale on Bernina sewing machines at The Quilt Store (which has The Yarn Store in the back - not that I need any yarn). A stop at Serenity Knits and Unwind Yarn House will no doubt be on the agenda.