Saturday, February 27, 2021

QuiltCon Together, at home by myself...

 Last weekend I spent a lot of hours on the computer. In a rather blues-ish period in the fall I had generously signed up for online classes with QuiltCon when the sign-up opened up for members of MQG, and now it was time to reap the harvest. Of course, my request for the entire QuiltCon days/weekend off had not been met quite to my desire, I still had to work on Friday. But I had Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday and Monday, and so I could spread out the classes that were on demand. Three lectures I had signed up for were 'live' (but pre-recorded nevertheless) and I did manage to catch those on time, and I had messed up a bit with remembering my schedule, so I attended the Q+A session for one class before I had actually done the class. I consider these mishaps a beginner's experiences because, after all, this was the first time I attended an online event like this. I have taught a couple of online classes myself, and I attended the online class by Phyllis Cullen and Cindy Richard on doing faces, but that is entirely different from a whole weekend packed with several classes. 


My laptop, my tea supply,
and my mess on my studio table in online mode..

 

To be honest, I was very disappointed with the lectures and classes I witnessed 'live'. Especially with the two lectures that were calles 'tours' of the International Quilt Museum. I just did not like her way of presenting (mostly herself instead of the quilts, I thought) and suffered through because I did want to see the quilts she had chosen. So I am not going to say more about those. One other lecture in my opinion by far did not supply what had been announced in the title, and with her I was also wondering, why on earth if you are prerecording this, do you have to have the situation that you are dealing with a scratchy throat, and have to keep commenting on this? Not going to mention that one in any more detail either.

The workshops I took, on the other hand, were very well presented, clearly structured, informative and fun.

Tara Faughnan on hand-sewing could not tell me anything new, but it was interesting to see how she explained how she arranges things, and this was only a short session. Matching the points in a six-pointed star is something I have done before, and I was not really careful enough when doing it alongside her explanation, so I had to take it out again afterwards.


The second attempt turned out better, and the few follow-ups I have done since then have been perfect (enough for mre) from the start.

The class on needle-turn appliqué I had signed up for because at that time I was writing an article on @nadiamamelouk and her self-developed style of needle-appliqué. I was considering trying it out and had wanted to compare, but when I tried Nadia's technique I soon found out that I absolutely love her results, but this is not for me. After 10 minutes into the workshop by Jen Kingswell I knew she wasn't going to change my mind about this, and although I would have enjoyed listening to her Australian English for a while I decided not to finish the entire workshop. 

The class by Sylvia Schaefer on "Designing with Negative Space" was the one where I attended the Q+A session first, before the class. Which is not really a smart way to do it, I completely agree with you on this one. Because it kicks you out of being a valuable participant in the questioning part. I wasn't happy with the Q+A session, and in a way I had the impression that I would have wanted more 'meat' in her answers, I would have liked her to make a better prepared impression. but then I wasn't well prepared myself, and I guess I can't really critcize her then. The workshop in itself was very good, though. Well structured, interesting examples for her list of various means of arriving at a 'negative space' for a modern quilt design, and I learned a lot from her.


But the highlight in classes, for me, were the two classes on EQ8 that I took with Cheryl Brickney, an introduction, and 'alternative grids'. An engineer by training, and abviously very versatile with this program, she had a completely structured way of presenting the program, walking us through the various worktables, repeating steps she had just taken...



 



I ended up with not very impressive in itself beginner's designs, but nevertheless I was impressed with how quickly I had understood what can be done (well, at least a little bit understood) where I had been pretty much at a loss when trying to find it out by myself.


Will I use this software to design quilts? I don't know, because it is absolutely not my way of working with a pre-drafted design, simply 'reproducing' a pattern like that in fabric when I have already seen it on the screen is not tempting for me. But I will certainly play around with the program a bit, see where it takes me, what options pop up, for example with the 'randomizing' function in terms of color choices.

Did I enjoy this experience of participating in an online event? Yes, and no. It was good to have at least a bit of quilting-related instruction, and it certainly is a big asset to be able to take several classes on a weekend without the additional cost of traveling, hotel, meals, etc. And if one is more careful about choosing the topic of the classes than I was in my blues-y mood when I did sign up, it might turn into a truly exciting learning experience. I appreciated the 'on demand' format, because I could stop the video, rewind, check back whether I had understood correctly, take a break for tea with my husband, and do the exercises without feeling rushed. But it is simply not the same as being in a crowd, together with other participants in a classroom, talking directly to the teacher and the others. But I do love the traveling part of quilt festivals, I am a traveler at heart and in soul and simply sitting in my studio with a computer is ... a different experience.

Yes, I am glad we have been able to develop the online mode of teaching during the pandemic, just imagine how terrible it would have been if we had not had this! No, I don't think everybody does a wonderful job with their online performances, and it should be taken into consideration that some ways of presenting might be ok live, but not in a recorded video. Yes, it was good to take the structured and well-prepared classes at own speed. But with the classes I taught myself it was the same feeling on the other side of the spectrum as I had on this occasion: it's simply much more fun to have the real experience.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Spinning

The sweater that was my first finish of the year early in January was knit from hand-spun yarn which I had completed during the first phase of lockdown last year. 


 

Ever since August I had been working on another batch of a sweater quantity of hand-spun yarn which I wanted to give to a friend for her birthday. One of the three strands I plyed together had been one of the first things I carded on my carder

 


Occasionally I would take my wheel outside and sit
on the terrace in the sunshine, weather conditions
permitting. This photo was taken early November at a
point when I was probably desperate for some sun...

It meant juggling with several bobbins because the three strands were not exactly the same diameter (not intended to!), and so when I plyed them the bobbins would empty differently. At some point I became afraid it would not be enough, I would have to card more, so I re-ordered a bit of turquoise sari silk which had gone into my own concoction and which I had completely used up. And meant to be without it after the conclusion of this project. That is not the case now - I have spun all this yarn, but I still have 100g turquoise sari silk which I now need to find a new project for... Because I ended up not needing it. Unless she claims the total is not enough, then I can card some more.


 
Then, finally, rinsing it in warm water to settle the ply.



And drip drying it in the heater room, and taken outside for photo in the snow. (The yellow and beige strands were leftovers on bobbins from other projects and do not belong in this batch.)



It is a wonderful combination of different blue shades and one ply of very dark Gray alpaca.

 

Due to the fact that this picture was taken with artificial light
the colour just doesn't look right...

 

At some point just before finishing taking off the plyed yarn from a bobbin there was a break and I came away with a rather short piece of yarn. I decided not to tie a knot but instead used it for a very small swatch because I wanted to see how this yarn looked knitted up before I sent it away.

 


I am sending the swatch with the birthday card, but of course she will have to make her own swatch before she begins a project. It will be interesting what this yarn will turn into.

That project  meant a lot of hours - spinning three different strands, and then plying them, and it had to be truly enough for her, as she is very TALL! But it was fun. And so this really was my second finish of the year, before the Freewheeling Single Girl Top.

Meanwhile I have started another spinning project - actually, two. One is a variant  of this project. Instead of two blue strands and a black one, I am making one blue strand, one as a mixture of merino, yak and yellow and grey silk, 


 

and the black one. I think it is amazing how different the sample looks, one can see that 33% difference is already a lot of difference! The strand made from yak, merino and silks feels gorgeous, although it is a slightly challenging combination to spin, with the long silk and merino fibres and the short yak.

The other project started when one member of our spinning group called for a 'fibre exchange' as a substitute for our annual musical chair spinning. I participated, but I stuck to the rules we had the past years, throwing dice for length of spinning time and direction of 'travel' , by myself. The initiator blended the 8 different fibres/colors together. I had not understood that this time rules were laxer. So I ended up with a bobbin full of a very diversely colored thread.

In the past two years I have plyed the results in two-ply yarns and turned them into moebius shawls. This year I am planning a three-ply, and the second thread will be a maroon silk which I bought recently I don't know why (definitely not my color... but I have started on this silk fascination, and it was on sale). For the third thread I am thinking about a mixture of purples and off-reds. Should be a very interesting combination, but that is ways off before it will be finished.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Fourth extension... and fourth completion (minus binding)

When the year began I was all psyched up that I would not let the lockdown wear (or psychologically lock) me down, I had planned to post regularly, and not whine about lockdown, corona, whatever. Just concentrate on living an as-good-as-possible life under the current conditions. But three weeks of home-schooling for the nursing course and the developments with the EU-vaccine disaster shut me up. I just couldn't write and not write about these issues, I was so upset. It can't be changed, though, and all my worries about my sons' generation, the economy especially for smaller shops and restaurants which are still closed, although they persist, they don't belong here. So...

Yesterday I finished a quilt top, completion #4 of the year. I had started it about a year ago after I had received Denyse Schmidt's templates for the "Free Wheeling Single Girl" pattern I had seen on Instagram. Of course, the 2019 sew-along was over by the time I became aware of the pattern, and I am not good at sew-alongs anyway. So I got started, liked the ease of how well the pieces came together, determined to use up old workshop samples that never got anywhere - and had another UFO, which stalled when the virus hit. I had tried out different arrangements of the block at first, none of which really satisfied me, though.






Other projects intervened, but when I came across the box after Christmas I made up my mind to get this one finished relatively quickly. I stuck with the original arrangement of the blocks, although I think the off-set arrangement as in the last picture above might be very attractive as well, in another color arrangement.

It was the final top to be quilted on my longarm while it is still in my house, as it is going to move to another place soon.

Now it only needs the binding.


Meanwhile lockdown has been extended yet again, until March 7th. Hairdressers are allowed to open on March 1st. I know many people think hairdressers are very important, but for me some other things would have been more urgent. It is frustrating ... but today the sun is shining and I will go for a long walk in the snow.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Third extension? ... and third completion...

 According to media and rumors and whatever we will most likely go into yet another extension of lockdown, possible even stricter still, although that is very hard to imagine. We are supposed to know by Tuesday night. It is getting very difficult to bear. My husband said he listened to an interview with a socio-psychologist on the radio this morning, and that person lamented that at this stage it is only virologists who are involved in advising politicians. Nobody is talking to sociologists, psychologists, and (psychological) long-term effects on the people who are being locked up are not being taken into account. That is what I mean when I say “what is this going to do to all of us?” How do we calculate longterm effects in comparison to shutdown of shops?  I try to reach out to friends by phone, catching up with them, chatting about what is, and what did not happen. But it is getting more and more difficult to keep spirits up.

And I try to keep myself busy – besides studying for my home schooling and ultimately for my exam. Therefore I can now announce the third finish of the year. Third? you say. Yes, there was a second finish which I wont talk about right now but will show here later. And this third one, too, you will not get to see in full completion yet, either, (although there was a photo of the finished top in this post) because it will be revealed in mid-March as a sort of sew-along for members of the German Patchwork Guild. We have our next issue of the magazine coming out then, and that will include an article on how fascination with one specific block can drive one to unknown lengths.  Parallel to that, the instructions will be published for members of the Guild on the website, and we will be hosting a ‘sew along’ for several weeks on facebook. 

The backside

 

So after taking it off the longarm the other day – having had a bit of tension problems and not too much fun with the quilting process! - 

 


I had to finish the binding in order to be able to get a decent photo for publication in the magazine.

First it was the question whether I would use a white or blue binding. I thought white might have looked more sophisticated and design-y, but as this is a blanket and is supposed to be used as such I figured it’s bad enough that the whole quilt has a lot of white, including the back. And edges in white will probably get dirty even faster than the rest of the quilt. In the end I settled for a blue binding, because I still have some of the blue fabric that appears in blocks of the quilt repeatedly. And as it turns out, the binding is so narrow, it doesn’t really make much of an appearance. 


I also used this occasion to try out whether I like preparing the binding with the little plastic clips that are available now (and of which I have quite a few). I don't use pins for attaching the strip to the backside of the quilt sandwich, but pinning it over to the front does take time, and it was at least worth the try.



Fact is, however, that I don't like the feel of it, I find the distorsion of the quilt sandwich by the raising
through the clips more annyoing than spending the time pinning. Taking out the pins while slowly getting closer to the presser foot is easier than taking off the clips, I think, so I will stick with my tried and tested method of pinning. But it is good to know this. And there are ample other possibilities for using these clips.

It was a good choice to take the blue binding. I like the result. Looking forward to the sew-along. I have never been the ‘host’ for something like that, and it really is not characteristic for me to be doing that. But then writing instructions isn’t characteristic for me, either, and it happened. The virus causes a lot of strange things to happen.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

A 120th birthday memory

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading “Diary of an ordinary woman” by Margaret Forster. It is a story which had been initiated by an elderly woman’s call who offered that M. Forster ‘take a look’ at the diaries she had been keeping all her life and ‘make something of it’. The main character in the book was supposedly born in 1901. The same year as my maternal grandmother. And although the story told in that book had only few parallels to my grandmother’s life, it made me think about her a lot recently.

She was born a bit prematurely on the 14th of January in 1901. Today would have been her 120th birthday, and it awes me thinking about the span we cover, assuming I still have an average of about 30 more years to live, which adds up to 150 years. This picture shows her as a little girl. 

 


She was her parents’ only child and in fact the only grandchild from a set of five brothers on her father’s side, so I think she must have been pretty spoilt. Her father was the mayor in a small north German town, and the local museum in that town still has a room dedicated to his years as mayor.

She graduated from High School which was not common for girls at that time, and she claims she wanted to go to university to study mathematics, but that did not happen. I am not sure whether that was due to the fact that liberties her father would allow her did not reach quite that far, or whether it was due to financial reasons, after all, the 1920s were not always economically easy in Germany. But she came from a family well off, I would assume it would have been possible to make it happen if she had been really adamant about it? I don’t remember her talking about the time of the Spanish Flu, but she did survive a very difficult appendix surgery and had a remarkable scar on her right lower side to show for that. She got married, gave birth to four daughters the first of which died right at birth because the midwife and doctor (who was drunk) did not arrive in time and the baby suffocated from the placenta – that’s the story. My mother was the youngest. After World War II when she found herself in Soviet Occupation Zone it took her quite a while to realize that things weren’t ‘going to get better again soon’ and that the houses she owned in two different cities did not make her a favorite of the socialist government. My grandfather ‘went West’ in 1952 by swimming through a small river that marked the boundary between Soviet and British occupied zone after having been warned that he might be arrested soon, she stayed behind with the girls. After the uprising of 1953, however, she took advantage of an opportunity for ‘family reunification’ and followed her husband across the border with the two younger girls. The eldest had been married by then and stayed behind. My grandmother then taught handicraft and protestant religion in school to supplement their income.

Here is a picture of her holding me at the age of approximately 10 weeks. Look at that jacket she is wearing – she had bought it in Norway on a holiday, and it will reappear in just a moment.


 

She baked the best waffles in the whole world and her packages in which she would send us home-made waffles were a reason to celebrate each and every time. My siblings and I loved those waffles. Despite the fact that we have her recipe, however, my own never tasted the same, and I think it must partly be because she was not using an electric waffle iron.

She taught me how to knit, and perhaps to crochet, too. I remember how I received a hand-wound ball of yarn with a set of red (!) knitting needles and little goodies were wound into the ball to keep me going. The yarn squeaked a bit, probably poly-something, my sweaty hands of inaptitude, but I kept going because I wanted to know what would show up next.

Later, when she was ageing and had worn that Norwegian jacket down to the last thread my mother and I went into a joint venture and reproduced that jacket in almost the same colouring. My mother took the pattern and knitted the sleeves. I made the bodice and the shoulder part after joining the sleeves to the bodice. Because we knitted differently in tension the jacket looked a bit awkward at first, but it somehow evened out after a while. I think she wore that jacket almost every day for the rest of her life. 

 


Now that I think of it, though, I am not sure she really enjoyed knitting or mending. Otherwise she might have made herself a jacket like that? She did make me a pair of wrist warmers when I asked her, but she wasn’t one who was flooding the family with hand-knitted socks or sweaters. But she got me started on the road to fibre work and my absolute love of it. But would my pieces find her approval? Who knows...

She did tell stories from her life, but for the last years of her life she was suffering from dementia, and although I remember some of them I am afraid many of her stories are lost. I wish she had kept a diary. And that I could read it, that I had asked more questions. She passed away in 1986.

 


 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Friday, January 8, 2021

Lockdown, extended

 A few days ago already media (politicians quoted in media) were talking about the fact that most likely our lockdown would be extended. Numbers of infections were considered unreliable because all those holidays, assumption of reduced testing, laboratories not working at full speed, the Robert-Koch-Institut neither... and by now the fact has been completed. At least until the end of this month, no shops open, no restaurants, no schooling in person. Even if one has been expecting it – it is getting hard to bear! I look at my penned up 15-yr-old who is denied his basketball practice, who may not meet his friends in person, while ‘Professional Sports’ is allowed to continue. A lot of money involved. But what is this being holed up in homes without sufficient contact doing to this generation? What will be the psychological price they will have to pay in the future?

We had reports about too many people trying to get outside between Christmas and the New Year, hitting the mountains, sledding slopes, even just going for walks. Not enough distance, not enough care taken to avoid infection. And by now, as post-holidays work schedules are being resumed, we see that numbers are indeed still rising.

Working in ER over the holidays was strange because for a large part of my scheduled shifts the hospital was not taking any ‘regular’ emergency cases due to an outbreak of corona amongst staff on one ward, which resulted in the closure of the ward, and the intensive care unit was full. So it was boring – but perhaps better than the complete catastrophe?

Vaccination for staff of the hospital started on Monday – but nursing students were not considered worthy of being put on the list. Which really pisses me off. There are quite a few things already that make me consider seriously whether I would or will apply for a position in this hospital... although I assume it is not much better in any other hospital, and this one has the definite advantage that my ‘commute’ to work of either 5 minutes by bike or approximately 11 minutes when walking is so very convenient. But ... nothing has been decided yet.

I did a lot of spinning and knitting. My first finish of the year happened on January 1 when I got to spend a few hours with my knitting and completed the yoke sweater from hand-spun yarn I had been working on for a few weeks and mentioned in my last post. 

 



However, although I announced differently I will not start on a new knitting project right now, despite the fact that my fingers are itching and I have swatched several options and could start at least three or four different ones. I have decided to finish some more UFOs first before I allow myself another cast-on. After all, there are several quilts still waiting to be finished, and several other knitting projects as well. So I took out my pieces for a “Freewheeling Single Girl” made with templates by Denyse Schmidt which had stalled a while ago, and continued with those, a bit mindlessly sewing just to keep busy. I actually like what is happening. I am cutting up a number of workshop samples that have accumulated over years, never were thrown out, but never developed into anything either. At least that part of the stash is being recuced a bit.

Cutting up a stalled/faltered project which is completely
'not my colors' and won't ever go anywhere unless I do
something dramatic to it.

In progress. It will be larger.

We have had snow. For the first time in several years. I think we have not had this much snow since before I stopped my business for hand-dyed fabrics, because I remember my stash of snow-dyed fabrics was dwindling when I decided to stop the business. When I was awoken by our new neighbors' boys shoveling snow on January 6 at 7 a.m. I fondly remembered how a snowfall would put me into action. I would have prepared several pieces of fabric by soaking them in soda and dried them off and I would be as eager to do a bit of snow shoveling as these young boys to make sure I got enough snow to fill several boxes and set them to drip-melt... I was getting rather nostalgic about this even, but then later on during the day I also was relieved that I could just enjoy the snow on my walk and did not have to work the boxes, washing machine etc. 

 



In addition, I have no pfd-fabric in the house right now, and at the moment I am not planning on getting any, either. Use up more of what is there first!