Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Embroidering a Tangle

On Sunday, about a dozen of us from our embroidery guild attended an all-day workshop led by Kim Mather of Kimat Designs. In the morning we had an introduction to Zentangle - a meditative type of guided doodling, and in the afternoon we embroidered one of our morning designs.

We were each given a couple of Zentangle 'tiles' - good quality 3 1/2" heavy paper squares, a 01 Micron pen, a little pencil, and a paper smudging tool. We drew a line around the edge, creating a border then a 'Z'. This created 4 different design areas. Kim then showed us several different basics and suggested designs for each area. We also did some shading to give the piece dimension.

This was my 'tangle'.
And everyone's.
We then drew a second one with different areas and techniques.
And everybody's tangles.

In the afternoon, we transferred the outlines onto water soluble, printable/draw-able stabilizer. The stabilizer has a sticky back and was stuck on our fabric. Most folks stitched right onto a tote bag. I chose to just stitch onto a piece of fabric that I could either frame or attach to something else.
We could use the Micron pens because all the stabilizer will wash away when we're done leaving only the stitching.

This was Kim's sample
We learned several different embroidery stitches and tackled each section. This is a great beginning piece because the different areas are quite small and manageable and can be completed in only 1/2 an hour or so. There was not enough time to finish, but most of us got all but one or two areas stitched.

Back at home, I finished the triangle at the bottom. I still need to attach the beads, add more to the 'leaf' in the middle, and figure out what I'll add to the crosses on the left. Then I'll make a cord with one of the threads and outline the 'leaf', with couching.
We all enjoyed the synthesis of Zentangle and embroidery. As I was stitching last night, I had visions of many colours of threads and embroidering other designs - paisley, leaves, etc. and making pillows.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Peek-a-Boo Pouch

A while back I bought the Babyville Snap Pliers on sale at the local fabric shop. Today I thought I'd tackle a project that uses snaps - the Peek-a-Boo Pouch by Caroline Critchfield of Sew Can She. It's a free pattern on Craftsy. Caroline also has a good video tutorial on YouTube. I first saw this project on the PBS Crafty show 'It's Sew Easy'.

My biggest challenge before starting a sewing project is picking the fabric. I certainly have enough in my stash so I picked a kitty cat theme. I also had vinyl on hand and a sizable stash of zippers and fusible interfacing.

It was a pretty easy project. Sewing the zipper onto the vinyl pockets was the trickiest bit because vinyl likes to stick to stuff and it can't be pinned but I lucked out and didn't have too many problems. It's best to use non-directional fabric because the outer piece is one big folded strip. I could have taken a bit more care to fussy cut for the flap and front.
I've been wanting to use this fishbone fabric for a long time.
The snaps went on rather well. In the future, I would put them closer to the bottom of the flap.

The size is perfect to hold the snap pliers in the zipper pocket
and all the accessories. The top vinyl pocket is open and the bottom one closes with a zipper. I also could have divided the top pocket by sewing a vertical line but didn't do it this time.
This pattern is easily adaptable to other sizes.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Sweet Memories

Skip was clearing some stuff from the bulletin board in his office and came across this business card.
Here's the back.
It dates from July 1995 when he and I were first a couple and going out on interesting dates. We still go on neat adventures but this was one of the earliest ones that was kind of quirky.

Skip was raised on a poultry farm in the greater Stouffville area and has an affection for tractors. Somehow he heard about this Great Canadian Antique Tractor Field Day and persuaded me to attend with him. It was one of the hottest days of the summer but we ventured forth. We had a very nice time wandering amid the antique tractors. This day was a Cockshutt (brand of tractor) annual meet up so there were tons of the red tractors on display. It was my first time attending anything like this and it was fun to see how excited Skip got when he heard the tractor engines start up.

As we were already in Milton, I thought we could whip up to Acton, to a stitchery store I knew about, called The Needle Gnome. It was Skip's first time at a stitchery shop, too.

I remember exactly the pattern I purchased - A Cross-stitcher's Poem - which I stitched up and then put away for about 20 years. I unearthed it last year and finally framed it.
Sadly, the Agricultural Museum is no more and the Needle Gnome is no longer a bricks and mortar business. But we did have lots of fun exploring them back then and have nice memories that, to this day, are very sweet.

And we still have pretty great adventures together.

Bright, Shining Star

My knitting classes on the Crystal Serenity are conducted in the Tastes Café - an eatery and bar. We sit at several tables and I go around helping out as needed and occasionally I get to sit and knit with the guests.
Every once and a while a waiter comes by to see if we need any drinks. How fortunate I am to have had this wonderful teaching experience.

Mimi picked an ambitious project and was pretty good about stopping when she'd notice a mistake so I didn't usually have to rip much out and get her on her way again.
Carley, an Auburn U student on the holiday cruise with her family group of 11, was an enthusiastic beginner as well and got the hang of the cast on and knit stitch right away. She and her mom both completed cell phone cozies on the cruise.
Another of the beginning knitting students took to the craft like she'd been doing it all her life. Amy got the hang of the long-tail cast-on and the knit stitch in record time and knit and purled a swatch by the time she got to the next class. I was impressed with the even tension.
I suggested she make the headband pattern as an alternate to the baby hat project. It only has the knitter cast on 14 stitches and has them knit a buttonhole. Basically it's a long version of my Cell Phone Cozy pattern.
Easy Peasy Cell Phone Cozy
She wanted to learn how to knit because all of her sisters were knitters. She was so proud of herself and we made a big fuss when she presented her finished headband.
And here it was buttoned up.
I insisted that she model it so I could take this picture. Amy and her husband live in SW Scotland so figured this would be a practical project. Little did we know she'd be able to make good use of the headband when we arrived at frigid Charleston.
She insisted that she have her picture taken with her teacher.
Amy participated in many shipboard activities so I was pleased she made the time to work on her knitting. I hope she continues to knit as she really did very well.

Done! (Well Almost)

I finished up the backstitching on the Bryggen (old harbour) Bergen cross-stitch I started back in the fall.
When I took a look at the photo, I found a couple of spots I still need to fill in. And I just realized the thing on the bottom right is a boat with a red bumper. It seems out of proportion to the other boats. While stitching it, I had not idea what it was. Once I do the last bits and get it stretched, it will be ready to frame in an 8" x 10" frame.

I have started the next stitching project - A Knitter's Sampler by Robin Sample of October House Fiber Arts. I'm using the DMC substitutes and am not that thrilled with the colours that, to my eye, don't really go together that well. If I were to stitch it again, I'd probably use 4 shades of the same colour.
Because of the big gaps between elements, I need to count carefully to make sure I don't get out of alignment.

I'm now thinking of all the things I want to take south with me to work on. I have a couple of knitting projects and will have several stitching projects as well.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Chrysanthemum Mitts Re-Re-Knit

I finished the Chrysanthemum mitts that I had been working on during the cruise. I had LOTS of time to knit during the time we were stranded and trying to get home. They are a re-knit of mittens I've knit and lost twice.
One modification I did was square off the tops and thumbs by grafting with the contrast colour.
I tried to continue the palm pattern seamlessly onto the inner thumb.
They fit more snugly than the other two pairs I knit although I used the same size needle.
If I were to knit these again, I'd probably go up to a 2.5mm needle.
They really are a fun knit and are very warm with the double thickness of stranded knitting.
I have enough yarn left over to do another pair.
Hopefully, I won't need to.

Picking up our saga from when we got the rental car on Friday, we had a good drive to Charlotte in the bright sunshine. Only about 50 km away from the coast there was no more ice and snow although it was still below freezing.

Returning the rental car went smoothly and all our flights back to Buffalo via ATL were on time. We even got an upgrade to Comfort Class (extra legroom and free drinks) when the gate agent heard our tale of woe (and that I'd been wearing the same clothes - the only cold weather ones - for the past 4 days).

There was a problem with the airport shuttle back to the hotel. We were not clearly told where to wait for it. Logic told us to stand at the 'hotel shuttle' area with had a heated kiosk (it was -17C) but the hotel does not have authorization to have its shuttle go there. Instead it was two lanes over. The bus was not clearly labelled either. We finally got back to the hotel after midnight. The car was covered in about a foot of ice and snow but thankfully the doors unlocked so we could get our winter outerwear out and bring it in to warm up overnight.

The next morning, after getting the car all scraped off, we did a bit of *shopping, filled up with gas and crossed the border. The rest of our drive was uneventful and we got home by about 2pm so Skip could watch the Bills playoff game on TV.

* One of the places we shopped was Wegmans where they were in a Football Frenzy. The Buffalo Bills made it into a playoff game as a wild card team.

There were football field cakes,
balloons in Bills colours,
jersey balloons,
helmet balloons,
1999 - last time the Bills made the playoffs.
football cookies, (I really liked the green one depicting the field at the 50 yard line, with the white, blue, and red sprinkles depicting fans),
blue and red checkout lights,
and football cakes.
Sadly the Bills lost their game because they sorely lacked an offense. We suspect all these Bills items would have been on sale very cheaply the next day.

At the duty free shop, I was very amused to see these chocolate bars.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Stranded in Charleston

We sailed for 2.5 days from San Juan to our disembarkation port - Charleston SC. The second last day the temperature plummeted from 28C to -1C overnight. The second last night, the swells were 6m high. Skip and I both took anti-nausea medication and conked out.

When we arrived in Charleston on Tuesday, it was sunny and cold. We were made to disembark and go through customs and immigration before going back to the ship for our last night. Charleston has a nice, big terminal but nowhere for people to wait before reboarding the ship. We ended up walking the neighbourhood which, fortunately, was close to Market St. and lots of restaurants. After lunch, we went back to the terminal where we were allowed to reboard the ship.

We spent the afternoon packing then had dinner at the specialty Italian shipboard restaurant, Prego. After dinner we finished packing and put our suitcases outside the stateroom and went to bed. As our flights were later in the afternoon we were in the last group to disembark at 9:30.  Unfortunately, by that time it was freezing rain and things were getting really slick. We were shuttled to another building were we could retrieve our luggage and get a cab to the airport. As we made our way there, we noted that many bridges and ramps to major highways were being closed. Our very capable Uzbek driver got us there safely and waited to make sure we got our cancelled flights rescheduled. He then let me use his cell phone to book an airport hotel and then drove us there.

Then the freezing rain turned to snow and it snowed quite heavily for the rest of the day. The only place we could get to on foot for a meal was Waffle House. Nothing else was open.
Knitting instructor well equipped with winter woollies
Characteristic palmetto with ice and snow.
It snowed all day. By night time, it was below freezing and the ice under the blanket of snow was very slick. A state of emergency was called and people were told to stay off the roads.

The Crystal Serenity was scheduled to sail at 6pm. Many passengers hoping to fly into Charleston that day would not have made it and would have missed getting on the ship in time.

This is what the deck of the ship looked like last week.
and what it looked like at 5pm on Wednesday.

We were excited to be leaving the next day and shortly after I printed our boarding passes for our re-booked flight, I got an email from Southwest that our flight was cancelled with no instructions for re-booking. I got online and searched for flights on Southwest and there was nothing for two days so I found flights on Delta to BUF via Atlanta. I checked in only to find those flights were also cancelled and booked again for Friday.  Yesterday when I went to check in for today's flights, they were also cancelled and we were rebooked for Sunday night via JFK. I then started investigating nearby places inland we could drive to so we could fly home.

Halleluja, there were affordable flights from Charlotte (a 3 hour drive) for tomorrow. I couldn't get through to Delta to change the flights so I just went ahead and booked them. I've been continuously trying to get through to Delta to cancel the Sunday flights with no success. They're understandably swamped with rebooking others who have been stranded along the eastern seaboard with this winter storm Grayson.

Next came the task of trying to book a rental car. It took me 1.5 hours to find a car rental place that would answer the phone so I could confirm that I could pick one up at the airport. Hertz finally came through for us. Even though the airport was closed, they were still open for business and had a car for us.

It then took us 3.5 hours to get a cab to take us the 5km drive to the airport. Our cozy airport motel didn't have an airport shuttle. Finally, a friend of our Uzbek driver from Wednesday took pity on us and drove all the way out of downtown Charleston to take us to the airport.

We now have a rental car and will be 'blowing this popstand' tomorrow morning and driving to Charlotte for our late afternoon flight. The roads are much better now and once we get 30 or so miles inland, there should be no more snow and ice.

We have had no end of trouble trying to roam (i.e.get cellular service in the US) with my Rogers cell phone. I enabled the cellular network and there's NO SERVICE here. WTF?? Charleston is not in the boonies yet it's a dead zone. Thank goodness I have a Skype phone plan that lets me call anywhere in the US or Canada if I'm connected to Wifi. The wifi in our hotel room has been kinda iffy so when Delta asks me to hold for over 2 hours it cuts out. When they ask me for my cell number so they can call me back, I don't get cellular service with my useless 'Roam Like Home' plan. I even called Rogers and they were NO help at all. Grrrr.

Our other issue was lack of food. As everything was closed, and we didn't have a car, we've been existing on Circle K gas station food. Yesterday I had a bag of chips for lunch and a roller grill hot dog for dinner. The Mobil station next door was closed as was the McDonalds across the street.

On top of everything, I came down with a wicked cold and spent all day yesterday in bed. I am still sniffly but have turned the corner and feel much better today.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well and we can be reunited with my car in Buffalo tomorrow night. I have boots in there and Skip has a winter coat. We'll bring them into the hotel and let them warm up before we drive back to Whitby on Sunday.

What a pain in the butt all of this has been. Southwest refunded our tickets with no questions asked but I don't know if Delta will be as accommodating since I booked other flights before cancelling our re-re-re-booked ones. At this point, I just want to get the hell out of here.

Stay tuned.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Shipboard Knitting

There is an opportunity on a cruise like this to kick back and relax. I have read three *books and am listening to another one. I don`t take the time to read when I`m at home because it either relaxes me too much and I fall asleep or I seem to always have something else to do.

I also did some knitting.

While shopping before the trip I lost my Chrysanthemum Mittens. It is the second pair I have knit and lost. Stephanie at Myrtle Station Wool had the contrasting yarn in stock so I whipped up there and picked up a ball so I could knit myself another pair. I started the first mitten just before the trip so I'd have something to work on in airports, on planes, in hotels, and on the cruise.

I finished the first one (except for the thumb)
and have the second one underway.
I also finished the first striped sock. I used the other end of the charcoal yarn from the mittens to do the toe.
These are the socks I was knitting back in September on our Scandinavian trip when I lost the blue wool used for the cuffs and heels. I think it rolled under the bed where I was knitting in Stockholm and I didn't notice it missing until we were on the high speed train to Oslo. I have found a substitute yarn for the cuff and heel of the second sock and will use the charcoal again for its toe.

Today is my last class. Tomorrow is the art and knitting display which is my last official duty onboard. We will be docking in Charleston at about noon and are required to get off the ship to clear customs and immigration before re-boarding for our last night on the ship. We also have a reservation at the specialty Italian restaurant onboard, Prego, and will begin packing after that for our final disembarkation on Wednesday morning.

Our flight back to the cold isn't until later in the afternoon. We're spending the night at the airport hotel in Buffalo where our car is, and will drive home on Thursday.

*"Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed" by Michelle Knight, "The Real Doctor Will See You Now: A Physician's First Year" by Matt McCarthy, (I don't remember the third one right now). Listening to "The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies", by Jason Fagone.