Thursday, 28 July 2016

Stitching Update

I've been quite intrigued with the American political conventions that have been on during prime time these past two weeks. It has provided me with a lot of time to do stitching.

I've got about 80% done.
There is very little backstitching. It's only used for details like antennae on insects. This bee is certainly not to scale.  The stitch for the blue flowers is called Double Cross Eyelet.
I need to re-do part of the wing of this dragonfly. This stitch is called Cushion Stitch. I was watching a murder mystery at night when I was working this area and clearly didn't make the best use of my magnifier.
 The insides of these flowers were pretty easy. The stitch is called Small Leviathan and is over 4 threads. 
I sure hope I can find a commercial frame for this piece. Hopefully one that would normally display 3 or 4 photographs.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

3 Pupae!

A couple of days ago, I was fortunate enough to photograph one of the caterpillars in the process of forming its chrysalis. It was a really light green colour at this stage, just after it had shed its last skin.
The other caterpillar pupated later that day.
Yesterday, I caught one in the other container getting ready to pupate. Here, you can see the silken threads it uses to attach itself. When magnified, it's very much like hook and loop tape (aka Velcro). Again, the last skin had just been shed and it was wriggling around forming the chrysalis. You can see the faint outline of what will be the wings in 7 - 10 days.
There is a way to determine the gender of the monarch at this stage by closely examining the cremaster (the black part which attaches to the silky threads).

Looking closely, I don't see the telltale line between the two black dots so I believe this is a male monarch pupa.
Note to self: inspect the other chrysalises and determine their sex.

A little while later, the chrysalis was completely formed.
One of the 3 new eggs hatched today. It is one day old here - about 2mm in length.
Another one hatched today and possibly the third one. I haven't been able to find the third larva - it might be too small yet to be easily seen.  I still inspect the undersides of my milkweed leaves on the plants outside. My hope now is to at least match last year's count of 10 adults released. Must find three more, must find three more...

Ironing Board Cover and a Discovery

When Diane and I went to Fabricland the other day, I found some really cute sewing-themed fabric that I thought would make a great ironing board cover for my little craft ironing board.

I took the other one off and used it as a template on the new fabric, allowing 1" seam allowance. The plan was to double fold it and make a channel for a drawstring.

I used an erasable pen to draw around the old fabric.
After cutting along the 1" line, I double folded it and pinned all the way around, then stitched a 3/8" seam. I put the old cover face down so it wouldn't show through quite as much and tied it in place. After threading the drawstring through the new channel, I put the new cover over the old one, pulled the drawstring taut and tied it off. Ta-da!
The old cover shows through a bit but I'll fix that with some cotton batting at some future point.

Speaking of  erasable pens... I've been looking at sewing tutorial videos online and a couple of the sewists recommended Frixion pens which erase with the heat of the iron. Unfortunately, they are only available online which would cost extra for postage. Being the thrifty girl that I am, I wondered if a regular erasable gel pen would work the same. I bought a two-pack of PaperMate Replay erasable gel pens to test out  my theory.

 I wrote on the selvedge.
Then put the iron on part of the message.
And the writing was gone!
So now I don't have to wait 'til my next trip to the US to get a Frixion pen.

This is what the PaperMate Replay package looks like. They're available in several colours.
And the pen.
It's possible that other erasable pens work the same way, this is just the one I tried.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Knit in Iceland!

Since I learned of the knitting tour to Iceland with Laura Nelkin coming up this September (not the one Alexa, Skip and I are going on) I've yearned to do something like this. Last time I checked, it was full.

I just learned that she is planning another one for next March 23 - 29, 2017 and it looks amazing. Here are the details from her blog. Land tour price is $2550 US (exclusive of flights). I can't tell you enough how enjoyable knitting tours are. The hotels are first-class, many meals are included, the tours are fibre-based, your fellow tourists are like-minded fibrephiles, land tours are an excellent way to explore new territories, and everything is taken care of for you.

I'm going to take a pass on this one this time for two reasons: 1. I'd rather go closer to the summer solstice or afterwards (rather than at the end of winter), and 2. Skip and I will be in the sunny south in March.

But someday...

Hopefully when that day comes, one or two of my knitterly friends will want to join me?

And closer to home, Purlin J of the Roving Yarn truck has organized a one-day bus trip to Twist in Québec for Saturday, August 30. Departures are from Kingston or Brockville. It's a really good deal at $80 CAD. It's not in the cards for me this year but one of you might be interested.

Pastoral Progress

I've have been flitting from craft project to craft project lately. Last week, my friend, Marilyn, came over to sit and stitch. I got inspired to do a big push on my latest project.

Things have been progressing well on The Pastorale sampler. Some people do every stitch in one colour before moving on to another one. Others work in one area before moving to another. I jump all over the place. As soon as I get bored with one section or stitch or colour, I do something in another area. My favourite thing is doing the letters so I alternate between doing a couple of letters with a couple of other elements.

When I'm watching something interesting on TV (especially something with English subtitles), I'll do big areas that don't require following the pattern much, like the house. I got most of the barn red colour done last night
then started filling in some of the 'large double cross eyelet' elements. It's a nice variation from plain cross-stitching and makes me want to do more complex stitching - as long as I have good directions.
I'm saving the sheep 'til last

to make sure I have everything around it in the right place. It isn't difficult to get off by a stitch so I'm checking and re-checking to make sure I've got everything right. I'm not sure I'll do the initials and date at the bottom as indicated in the pattern. It will depend on what frame I find for this piece.

Easiest Zipper Replacement Ever!

I have a favourite pair of denim capri pants that I practically live in. However, the zipper has always crept downwards, especially when I need to bend forward. The other day, I was watching this 'Sewing with Nancy' episode on my local PBS station where she showed an incredibly easy way to replace the zipper without having to undo any seams. The relevant part starts at 13:38 on the video.

I got so inspired, I went right out and bought a replacement zipper. Today, I sat down and did the replacement.

This technique is unorthodox in that you simply cut the faulty zipper out as close to the stitching lines as possible. Then let any remaining zipper fabric unravel and trim off any errant threads. The decorative topstitching is unaffected, although it no longer holds a zipper in. I also cut the two bar tacks holding the zipper flat.

This freed up the two parts of the bottom of the zipper placket.

Folding down the top of the zipper tab out of the way, I pinned it into place (Nancy uses two-sided tape instead of pins in the video but I didn't have any), and using denim-coloured thread sewed the two sides of the zipper into place.
No need to worry about tucking the zipper tape into a seam on the button side,

as the flap completely covers the zipper tape.
I then re-stitched the bar tacks. The arrow is pointing to the one that is visible on the outside. The original thread is still there yet you can barely see the new, blue bartack just above it. Also, the seam that holds the zipper in place is barely visible (the crease on the flap) when using denim-coloured thread.
That was it! It took all of about 10 minutes from beginning (cutting the zipper out) to end.

The new zipper doesn't creep! Hurray!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Bendy Bag

After my sewing session with Diane last week, I've had the urge to make something. Online, I found this pattern for a 'Bendy Bag' designed by Joan Hawley of 'Lazy Girl Knits'. It's also one of three projects in her Craftsy class.
I was intrigued but only enough to purchase the pattern, rather than the class.

The instructions for the Bendy Bag were very clear with lots of diagrams and photos. Ideally, the fabric shouldn't really be directional as the pattern is turned 90 degrees. Only 2 coordinating fat quarters are required plus fusible batting.

I selected the fabrics from my fat quarter stash. It didn't take very long to make the bag.

The inside seams are finished by zigzag stitching over the raw edges.
The pattern calls for a 14" zipper. Only 9" of it are used for the actual zipper. 2" of it are buried under a zipper casing. Where, in my opinion, a half inch would have been adequate. I only had a 12" zipper so that is what I used. I just made the tab part a little bit smaller and had to be very careful not to sew over the metal stopper at the end of the zipper.
The 3" that are cut off are used for a zipper tab. However, anything could have been used for the tab - a double folded square of fabric? A length of ribbon?
If I were to make this again, I'd also add a tab to the bottom of the zipper as there's nothing to hold on to for closing the bag. The result is a puffy, asymmetrical bag that measures about 7" x 7".
The asymmetry is achieved by cutting pieces off the original folded rectangle and 'bending' and seaming it in a different direction.

The cut off pieces were quite large which seemed to me to be a waste of two padded, lined, triangles.
I don't like wasting fabric nor having a lot of good bits left over from projects. Unless I really wanted to make another quirky, zipped bag, I probably wouldn't make this pattern again.

420 Yards of 2-ply

Last night at spinning, I finished plying this yummy yarn. I believe it is merino/cashmere/nylon.
It's having a good soak in the sink right now, after which I'll thwack it and hang it to dry.
Now, what to do with 420 yards of fingering weight 2-ply multi-coloured yarn...

Friday, 15 July 2016

Sewing Fun

My spinnerly, weaverly, knitterly friend, Diane just took her first sewing lesson at a local fabric shop and got all enthused about learning to sew.

She came over tonight to get a tutorial on my old sewing machine I'm lending her and to do a project.
She decided she liked my weighted pincushion thread catcher that I made last year based on Rob Appell's 'Man Sewing' video.
She brought over some beautiful fabric she had purchased from a Canadian online fabric shop,  Fridays Off Fabric Shop. We raided my stash for a contrasting fabric and got to work.
 We just went step by step and before we knew it, she had her own weighted pincushion thread catcher.  Ta da!!
Isn't that a beauty?!
I'm all geeked up to do more sewing myself. Yesterday I purchased the pattern for Bendy Bags by Lazy Girl Designs. I'm going to do more stash raiding to make a couple of them. As if I needed another project...

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Photo Shoot

I finished the i-cord bind off. It took less than 200 yd. of sock yarn.
I took it outside to get some shots. I still don't like that pesky, big, camo square.
I often just stick my knitted items to the brick wall.
and over the neighbour's fence.
Just to the right of this are several of my milkweed plants. I haven't found any more eggs. The count is way down this year.
I'm having withdrawal from knitting this. I certainly have enough yarn to start another.
I did actually knit a sample square and ripped it out to measure how much yarn it used. It was 14 yd. So if you're making 3" squares, swapping mini-balls of 15 yd. of yarn with your knitterly friends should be more than enough.

But I've picked up my stitching again and have almost finished the stealth project.

Backyard birding update... we had house finches, chickadees, and red-breasted nuthatches at the feeder yesterday. It was great to finally see birds other than American goldfinches enjoying the nyger seed. I hope they spread the word.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Suburban Wildlife

There are several larvae munching away on milkweed and growing rapidly.
This year I plucked the leaf or leaf cluster that the egg was on and have kept the stem in water. The hope is to keep the milkweed leaves fresh.
 Three days after hatching, they're about 1/8" (3mm) long.
This morning we spotted a different bird in the yard out the breakfast nook window. I scrambled for the camera and got this shot.
Then we grabbed the bird guide and determined it was a first-year female Baltimore Oriole.

A couple of hours later, just by chance, I was walking by the window and looked out and saw a male land on the shepherd's crook of the finch feeder.

I wonder if they've nested nearby or are just passing through.

Since we stopped putting sunflower seeds in the feeder, we haven't had grackles. Sadly, there haven't been many chickadees, house finches, or cardinals either. However yesterday I spotted a mated pair of cardinals and their drab fledgling. So they are still around. The American goldfinches continue to pig out at their dedicated feeder.