Monday, 31 July 2017

Handspun Boomerang

I spun this yarn in 2014.
It was 155g of beautifully-dyed Merino Superwash mill ends from The Black Lamb. I chain-plied it (3-ply) to make a nice, round yarn that maintained the integrity of each colour with a minimum of marling/barberpole-ing. It was 404yd of DK weight yarn.
Last week I used it to start another Quaker Yarn Stretcher Boomerang, designed by Susan Ashcroft.

I finished it last night with 60cm (24") of yarn to spare after the picot bindoff (cast on 2, bind off 5). That was close.
It is now blocking.
It's easy to run the blocking wires through the picots. I used blocking wires on the other short side and bendable blocking wires on the long side.
The bendable ones are great for blocking curved things like crescent shawls. I bought them several years ago from Inspinknity on Etsy.

I'll have more pics tomorrow when the shawl is dry.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Batik Diamond Mini-Quilt Bag

Several years ago I discovered an online fabric company, Connecting Threads. They were having a clearance sale on kits so I purchased a quilt kit and a tote bag kit.

I started the quilt and have most of the blocks done but it's waiting for me to finish it up. The other day I tackled the tote bag kit.

For some reason, I have trouble following multitudes of instructions. I need to get better at reading and re-reading them until I really understand them.I do much better with instructional videos. I started in and did all the cutting correctly. I then began to sew the 'mini-quilt' together. It consisted of dark blue squares on point alternating with colourful batik patterned squares on point.

The instructions said to use 1/2" seams throughout and it wasn't until I had sewed the whole mini-quilt together I noted that those seams were to be 1/4". Argh! So the other pieces (lining and pockets) had to be proportionately trimmed to fit. No big deal - it just slowed me down a bit.

I got to try a couple of new techniques (to me). One was creating a zipper pocket in the lining where you put the pocket and bag lining right side together, mark and sew a rectangle where the zipper will go, cut out the opening then push the lining fabric through it. THEN glue the zipper in place in the opening to topstitch all around it securing the zipper in place.
I'd watched a couple of videos on the subject but finally had a chance to try out the technique myself.
My other mistake was orienting the pocket incorrectly (the diagram in the instructions was misleading) but I was able to compensate by adding another piece of fabric to the pocket.

On the binding on the top of the exterior pockets, I wanted to use a wider stitch to secure it. I then remembered I have about 60 different stitches programmed into my little Bernina 220 machine so picked one that I thought would look very nifty.
The mini-quilt is centred on the outer fabric then the straps are sewn through both it and the main outer fabric, securing everything and creating pockets on each side of the bag, once the side seams are sewn up.
Then it was time to attach the interior pocket to the lining opposite the zipped pocket.
Once that was done, the corners were boxed on the exterior and lining. The outer bag and inner lining were sewn together right sides together around the top, making sure the handles were out of the way and leaving a big gap on the interior side seam for turning.  After turning, I stitched around the top and then hand-sewed closed the gap in the lining.
In spite of the fact my seam allowance error reduced the length and width of the mini-quilt by 2", it still turned out to be a decent size. 15" wide, 13.5" high, and 5" deep.
The kit came with 24 10" patterned batik squares. I only needed 16 4.5" squares so I only used 8 of the 10" squares. I have 16 - 10" squares and 8 - 5.5" x 10" pieces left over so could use them for other projects. I now am confident I could custom-make similar bags trying out other mini-quilt patterns for the exterior or other pattern combinations.

#3 - #9

It's been pretty busy this week. 7 more monarchs have been released. I think a few of them are hanging around the house as I see the odd one feeding on our echinacea and sea holly.

I haven't been finding as many eggs lately - only 1 yesterday and 4 today. I as I drive around town, I am constantly on the lookout for milkweed that I can bring home for the caterpillars. I snip the leaves off the stalks, rinse them off and dry them somewhat, then put them in plastic bags in the fridge to stay fresh. I have about two days' stock on hand now. The leaves dry up after a few hours once I put them out. so I'm trying to keep the caterpillars on fresh leaves. I segregate most of them but now that several are about 1cm long, I could put more of them together in containers.

This morning, I found a little guy just after it had shed its skin (black stuff beside it). There are 5 instars (stages). I think this one is in its second one.
I've been pretty fortunate to be able to videotape a couple of them making their first flight after leaving the ' castle. I'm having trouble getting the videos to show in the blog, though.

This one just flew over to the lilac bush where he held on for quite a while. I didn't see him fly from there.
 I have about 46 larvae in various stages and two pupae (chrysalises) that just formed a couple of days ago so it will be another week or so before they eclose (emerge from the chrysalis). By then, other larvae will be pupating. I won't be bringing in eggs after the beginning of August because I want to be all finished by the time Skip and I go on another travel adventure mid-September. From the laying of the egg to eclosing and releasing of the adult can take about 30 days.

To this point of the 9 adults I've released, 7 were female and 2 were male.

Friday, 21 July 2017


Early in the afternoon, I went to release the butterfly that eclosed this morning and the second one had eclosed, too!! How exciting!!
It, too, is a female. I took the castle outside and unzipped the opening. I had to encourage them to fly out.
I was so busy trying to video it that I didn't see where the first one went. The second one flitted over to the neighbour's Rose of Sharon tree where it stayed for a while.
Other chrysalises are getting dark so there will be ongoing releases over the next few days. By then, we'll have some more pupae.

Our First Eclose

This morning the pupa had still not emerged. But the wings were clearly visible through the casing.
Skip and I went out for breakfast and found this when we got home.
The wings were still a bit crumpled/ripple-y so it hadn't be out for very long. It has been exactly 10 days since it pupated and 3 weeks since I found the larva and brought it inside. The wide veining and absence of scent glands on the hind wings indicate that this is a female.
On the back right, another darkened chrysalis indicates that it will probably eclose tomorrow morning.
I'll release her in a few hours once her wings are well dried and strong enough. It does her no harm to stay in the castle until then.

Only 60+ left to go. Oh yeah, and I found 3 more eggs this morning.

Monday, 17 July 2017

One Over One Done

I finished the stitching. I just noticed I have a couple of stitches to finish crossing.
Yesterday, Skip and I went into The Big City to see the musical about Carole King, "Beautiful".
The performances were excellent, particularly by Chilina Kennedy, a Kingston ON native, who played Carole. Particularly impressive was her piano playing and that of others on the stage. Such good memories are evoked by hearing the tunes she co-wrote with her first husband, Gerry Goffin. It's remarkable that her first big song,  was produced when she was only 16 years old.

Thanks, Skip, for that excellent birthday present of tickets to the show.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Another One Over One

I started this little ornament last night.
It was a freebie from Gitta's back in 2007, A Blue Ribbon  pattern "A Star On Top' designed by Belinda Karls-Nace.

I don't have all the colours so am doing some substitutions. I screwed up some of the spacing as I was watching TV (a couple of episodes of the Great British Baking Show that I had PVRd) so I've picked out almost as much as I've stitched. And that's hard to do when stitching over one thread.  It is a 53 x 56 stitch piece, stitched with one strand of floss over one thread on 32 count linen.

Population Explosion

Yesterday I had 5 pupae and 5 larvae in various stages of development. This morning I found 3 eggs and this larva which I'm guessing hatched a couple of days ago.
Then this afternoon I went looking for more eggs and found 9 more (possibly 10 - I'm having trouble keeping track.

I have relocated all the pupae that were in containers to the top of the caterpillar castle. Basically, I peeled their silky attachment off whatever they were attached to

and stuck them on the roof of the caterpillar castle. The masking tape didn't work well so I sewed them on. They'll be fine there and hang there once they're hatched and their wings are strong enough for flight - usually several hours after emerging from the chrysalis.  One larva at the back is going to pupate in a few hours.
It is possible to determine the gender of the chrysalis but I haven't really had a good look.

With all the new eggs I've found, I've had to put them in various containers. All the pupae and big caterpillars are in the castle. Each little larva will be in its own container until it's big enough not to eat other little ones.
The open containers each contain a milkweed leaf with eggs on it. I don't have to worry about them crawling away until a day or two after they've hatched. I'll know when they're about to hatch when I see the black dot at the top of the egg. There are 23 or 24 monarchs altogether as of now.
I still go out several times a day and check for more eggs or larvae. I'm not sure what my maximum capacity could be. Every larva or egg I find could be one more that makes it down to Mexico to begin the 4 generation cycle all over again.

My biggest concern will be finding enough fresh milkweed to feel the larvae after they hatch.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Ornie Rerun

The weather has been craptastic these past few days so I've had lots of time to cross-stitch. I finished the 'Silent Night' ornament yesterday while binge-watching "The Handmaid's Tale".
Despite the smallness of the project, there's a LOT of stitching and beading. All the stitching is with one strand of floss. All the beading was done with 2 strands and as I mentioned in a previous post, I went through the bead one way (/) and back through the other (\) which makes the beads lie horizontally.
With some nifty Christmassy fabric or music note fabric as a coordinated backing, this will make into a really nice ornament.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Stitching Update

I finished the last bit of the 'fruit' in the tree last night. I think I'll put my name and the date on either corner at the bottom and then get an 8" x 10" frame for it. It would easily make into a cute pillow, too.
I finished this little one stitched one over one and need to put my initials on it somewhere, then do a nice ornament finish.
This one was stitched a long time ago and I just unearthed it. It's a Lizzie Kate design from the 2002 Just Cross Stitch (JCS) Christmas ornament issue. I plan to stitch it again over one thread to make an itty bitty ornament. This was stitched with DMC colours substituted for the Gentle Art Sampler Threads (GAST) called for in the pattern.
I have stitched this Silent Night ornament a couple of times before. It's from a JCS ornament issue from over a decade ago. The beads aren't Mill Hill but are a good substitute and seem to be accepting the non-beading needle quite well. So far I haven't had any beads that had too small of a hole.
The beading is going slowly as I was stitching it in a reclining position and had to carefully pick up and put down the beading tube every time to add a bead. I'm also crossing through the bead both ways so it stays in a horizontal position rather than slanted when stitching it only one way. I'm also correcting the incorrect second flat position in the clef sign in the pattern. (I'm picky about stuff like that.)

I may even have a previously stitched one of these kicking around that I can also finish. This particular one will be a gift.

Casa Oruga (Caterpillar House)

I was really busy at Casa Oruga yesterday. I found two more larvae on our milkweed,

one pupated in the 'Caterpillar Castle' after wriggling its last skin off,

two pupated on the lid in the 'Bug Bottle',
and left their last skins on the bottom of it,
the egg hatched,

the larva I thought was dying seemed to have rallied and after bringing in, rinsing, and drying off fresh milkweed leaves, I had lots of poop to clean up.

 The other larva on the ceiling of the 'Caterpillar Castle' is preparing to pupate.
It was still hanging there this morning
and when I checked 90 minutes later...
 The little hatchling is growing fast and has already doubled in size from yesterday.
If they all make it to adulthood, I could be releasing 11 monarchs this year. Fingers are crossed.

I'm going to have another look on our milkweed plants in the garden today for more eggs or larvae.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Found Some More!

I found another larva this morning on the milkweed in the garden and a egg! The egg should hatch in a couple of days.
It's the first egg that I've found this year and there may be more. I need to have another good look in the same area as monarchs usually lay several eggs in the same general area in the same general time span.

The larva that I found is about 5 days old. I left it on its leaf and tore around it to bring it inside. I added another juicy one to encourage it to eat.

I do rinse the leaves off that I bring in from outside and dry them. I also rinse the 'milk' off the cut area and either wrap it in wet paper towel, rest it in residual moisture in the jar, or put it through plastic wrap to sit in water.

These three larvae are really making short work of this cluster of leaves I brought in yesterday. One of these caterpillars isn't doing so well. Yesterday it looked like all its skin didn't shed off as pieces of it were still attached. It spent most of yesterday lying on the paper towel on the bottom of the 'Castle' so I put it on a fresh leaf. It lay there for the rest of the day - not moving much or eating. Then this morning, I found it with these other two. There is still some flaky loose skin attached. Time will tell if it thrives and makes it to the pupa stage.
This one is working on its own.
There is lots of frass to clean out now as they are eating and pooping a lot more.
I now have 4 different containers on the kitchen table and three jars with milkweed leaf clusters in the Caterpiller Castle. There really isn't any rhyme or reason to this. I am just experimenting. From past experience, I know to isolate the eggs and keep them on their own until after the larva has hatched and it's about 1/4" in length. Then it's big enough not to get eaten by the others.

The eldest larvae should be pupating any time now. They're getting really big. Soon they'll climb to the top of their enclosure and begin attaching themselves in preparation for shedding their last skin and making a chrysalis.