Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quilt Across Texas Shop Hop - Part 2

As September began to wind down I realized that I did not have much time left to complete the Texas Shop Hop.  Heck, I had only visited one shop (Heavenly Threads in Trinity) of the 91 in the hop.

All became clear to me when a Saturday Strippers gathering was cancelled which meant I had approximately a day and a half all to myself.  Quickly I called Paul to let him know he was baby sitting Kelis for a couple of days and I contacted Alex's foster mom to see if a visit with Alex would fit into their plans.  Both Paul and Liz and Sid were agreeable so I packed the car that Thursday evening and, after water aerobics and Knitting on Friday, I hit the road for this new adventure.

A couple of things first - I had FIVE things to navigate by - a traditional Texas road map, the directions from the shop hop people, a download from Google maps, my GPS and my new phone's navigation application.  Despite all these instructions I got lost about twelve times and added about fifty useless miles tothe car.

But I digress..

My first destination was Lone Star Quiltworks in Bryan Texas.  I saw a lot of magnificent homes while getting lost trying to get there and my visit started on a funny note.  I charged into the store and asked for the restroom.  Knowing I was in distress the clerk pointed me to a lovely restroom with lots of decorations for children and reminders to wash my hands.  Imagine my embarrassment when I came out and realized that I was in children's toy/book store.  With a very red face I left and went into the correct store, just one slot over in the strip mall.

Lone Star is a large, well lit and well stocked quilt store.  They have a lot of patterns for accessories and lots of samples.  They also have great little gadgets and notions and I will admit I picked up a few Christmas presents.  One thing I noticed was their sale rack where everything was $4.00 a yard if you bought five yards or whatever was on the bolt.  I found a lovely floral border print in brown that would be great as a backing for a quilt or as a quilt border or cut up into a One Block Wonder type quilt.

After restocking my water bottle I hit the road again for Taylor Texas and E-Jay's Trunk.  This is a tiny store with a wonderful ambiance.  No pressure here!  I found a lovely piece of jacquard woven navy fabric of tiny school houses and stars that are the perfect weight for a house/sun dress or slouchy pajama style pants.  I ended up having a wonderful conversation with the owner of the store next door on the relative merits of crocheting versus knitting.  A great stop! 

It was getting late in the afternoon so I only made two more shops.  Both were sewing machine shops with a nod to quilting and other sewing activities.

Austin Sewing Machines in Round Rock was very hard to get to if you did not know the area.  They had a lot of fabric but, after using their restroom, I realized that there was nothing that caught my eye so I moved on.  Don't get me wrong, it is a big bright store and they had a lot of intriguing embroidery software but my brain just couldn't absorb any of it.  Sorry!

On to the Ready To Sew Bernina store in Cedar Park.  This store is in a very classy plaza and the parking lot was very full with people getting errands done before heading home for a quiet evening at home.  Tress in the parking lot always get my vote for ambiance.  When I walked in the store I was greeted with a comment from the owner 'You realize we are closing in ten minutes?".  Of course I didn't know you were closing in ten minutes because I am a brain dead shop hopper who has traveled almost two hundred miles today just to get to your wonderful shop.  I didn't stop for even ten minutes but got in, got my passport stamped and got out.

Back in the car I decided to call it a day and find where the next shop on my list was located and  to find a motel nearby so I could start early in the morning.  Ended up in an extended stay hotel for $39.99 (including taxes), didn't sleep well but enough that I know I won't stay there again!  Never found the Holiday Inn that was supposed to be in the area.

The rest will have to wait for another day.

Calais Shawl

In my unending desire to knit a piece of lace without five thousand miss-counts or dropped stitches, I searched on Ravelry for a free simple lace pattern...that is, one with very few pattern stitches and lots of simple repeats.  There are hundreds of free patterns that are easy but that is because most of them mostly straight knitting with a complex hem.  The Calais Scarf by Judy Marples of Purl Bumps fit the bill.  Here's the photo from her pattern: 

Isn't it lovely?  Many repeats of a small number of stitches (for those of us who can't count) plus an interesting border.  These attributes when combined with the use of only one skein of yarn made this a great project for me.

Off I went to the stash thinking of all those sock yarns I have acquired and how lovely they would look in this pattern.  While sorting through the pile I came across a skein that I actually hate and realized that it would work for this pattern.

I had purchased a skein of Araucania's Lonco Solid mercerized cotton yarn that had been hand dyed in chocolate brown.  I wear a lot of brown in the winter and thought that brown socks would be a logical choice for me HOWEVER this yarn has no stretch in it and would make lousy socks...or at least socks that would not stay up.  I had ignored good advice about always reading the label before you buy a yarn and had ended up with string for sock knitting.  YUCK!

Anyway, I have been hiding this yarn in the bottom of my basket and brought it out for this experiment in lace knitting.

Here's how my effort came out...

Yes, you can see a couple of boo boos and yes, on one row I couldn't figure out if I was knitting or purling but it's done, is incredibly soft and drapes beautifully.  This is definitely something I will wear as a decoration rather than for warmth and I love it.

Lessons learned/re-learned:

  • stitch markers are your friends
  • count twice, rip once
  • blocking wires are a good thing but finicky to use
  • nothing I own is big enough for blocking this type of project
  • there is no bad yarn, just yarn that hasn't met the right project yet

I think I will try this specific pattern again but in a traditional yarn (like a wool blend) rather than the string I used this time.

Time to go stash diving! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walker and Wheelchair Bags Distributed

Over the past couple of months I have been writing about the project to provide everyone in a local nursing home with wheelchair and walker bags.  The whole thing started off innocently enough with the beautiful Rose heading up a project for her church to improve the lives of the residents of the Pine Shadows nursing home.  Over the past few months it grew as members of the quilt guild and the church made about 100 of each kind of bag and today was the day that we distributed them.

Here is one of the new bags in use... and it works!

I also got a chance to view this wonderful quilt on a patient's bad...hand quilted too!

And check out this fabulous afghan-
But there didn't seem to be a lot of these homey touches on a lot of the beds. 

I don't think anyone was enthusiastic to visit the home but 14 of us gathered to bring over the bags and to visit with the residents.  

First of all, the smell of urine and/or feces was NOT present so one worry was alleviated.  Also, despite a whole range of disabilities of young and old patients, the staff seemed loving and caring and I didn't see anyone with soiled garments or dirty bedding.  Another worry alleviated.  The final worry was about those who really can't look after themselves at all.  All the residents seemed seemed well cared for and their needs acknowledged and tended to quickly.

But here's the thing... no matter how nice a facility is or how healthy the patients could be, this is still a nursing home where most of the residents will leave when they die.  Families and friends visit rarely, if at all, and boredom is only somewhat alleviated by meals and light rehab activities.  Its depressing and not where anyone would like to be.  With 75% of the Medicaid budget going to these types of facilities I wonder how the level of care might deteriorate if certain politicians have their way.

BUT I am glad I went and that this project is over with for now.  I have  a feeling we will be making more as time goes on but not so many all at once.  I don't think I'll have all the energy I needed to get this project completed until next summer. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Make Your Own Dress Form

Several years ago, Connie Crawford came to the Houston Chapter of the American Sewing Guild to lead a pants pattern class and a dress form making class during a sewing retreat weekend.  Due to some amazingly weird problems... like the venue declaring bankruptcy 72 hours before we were to meet and over 100 attendees working with only a 1' x 3' of space each, the pants pattern making took up the whole weekend so the dress form making was postponed for a few months.

Dress form making is all the rage with many online seamstresses but if my experience is typical, it would be better to save your pennies and buy a pre-made dress form.

For example, your partner who is doing the wrapping needs to be very strong to lay on the layers of tape snugly and consistently.  If the taping is not uniformly snug, your final product could be very lopsided.

Secondly, do not gain or lose significant amounts of weight after your dress form is made...unless you want to go through it all again.

Thirdly, be prepared to stand perfectly still for at least one hour for the taping to occur.  I think I was required to be still for over an hour (more like two) and, by the end was feeling faint and parts of my body fell asleep.

Fourthly, at least four layers of tape are required to make an adequate form, three on the body and at least one more after it is cut off you.  In all I think mine ended up with six layers including one on the inside to firm up weak spots like the waist and where the cutting was done.

And another thing...the form needs to be stuffed after you are done.  Stuffing is hard to find and can be expensive.  For a dress form that you can stick pins into you need many pounds of cotton wadding..not batting as for quilts but loose cotton fill...and you must fill the form very firmly.  At the time it was very hard to find the filling locally and mine was never filled.

Why am I going on like this about an old project?

Well, my dress form has been sitting around the house since it was made.  It was int he dining room for a while, then the sewing room and it finally ended up in the back of a closet.  In one of my rare moments of cleaning, I pulled it out the a couple of weeks ago and sat it up on the bathroom counter.  I thought if I saw it often enough I would be motivated to finish the dang thing.

After much thought I tossed it out in this week's garbage.

After all the time, effort and money spent on this dress form would I toss it away?

Let me count the ways....

  1. I have lost weight since then so it is too big.
  2. Although the dress form has a sway back, I do not.
  3. One breast was wrapped as a double A while the other looks like a triple E.
  4. I have a small butt, and have never had much of one, but my dress form had none at all....completely flat.
  5. More financial investment in this project seemed stupid.
  6. Frankly, I didn't like Connie or her attitude and just seeing that dress form on the bathroom counter brought back all the bad feelings I have of the whole experience. 

So there it is on the side of the road waiting to be picked up and sacrificed to the landfill gods.

Rest in peace!

If you really want a dress form just buy one online.  I can't for the life of me remember who sold me mine but the basic form came from Paris, there were three covers for it and around 20 little foam bits to made adjustments to more properly match your shape and it has a lovely oak stand.  It may have come from Fabulous Fit.  I do not see my model on their website and it was certainly less expensive than I see there now, but it is still the best way for me to how a garment will look on me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quilt Across Texas Shop Hop - Part 1

Those wonderful folks in Quitman, TX at Stitchin' Heaven have come up with a great way to force traffic into a lot of quilt stores in Texas.  They have created a shop hop of about 90 stores, in eight different regions spanning the whole state of Texas and we quilters have a whole month (THIS MONTH!) to visit as many as we want or can for a chance at some pretty spectacular prizes.   Called the Quilt Across Texas shop hop it gives people like me an opportunity to see different shops, explore the back roads of Texas and to find unique quilt related items that are not available through the big distributors while hoping for a big prize.

Today is the day that I started my adventure.  There was a little method to my madness.

First of all, I wanted to see how Alex and Kelis would handle a long car ride.  The shop I went to today was 75 miles away which seemed like a good test of their ability to tolerate my ignoring them as the miles flew by.  

Kelis handled it like a pro.  She spent most of the trip sleeping in the back seat on an old wool afghan.  Good Girl!

Alex, on the other hand, spent most of the trip whining and trying to get between my face and the wind shield.  When he wasn't in the front of the car driving me nuts he was laying on the shelf behind the back seat with his head wedged between the head rests looking for to all the world as a dog getting ready to heave up his breakfast onto the the back seat.  

Maybe I'll try drugs on him next time.

The shop I visited made all the Alex drama worth it.  Heavenly Threads Quilt Shop is a delightful little store in Trinity Texas with a sweet owner and a Chuweiny(?) named Lucy as the shop dog.  Lucy got to meet Alex and Kelis and really didn't know what to do with them.  Alex made several attempts to sniff her in her nether regions so no wonder she wasn't interested!

The shop is in an old house, well signed and contains many things for the quilter including several civil war themed prints, embellishments for art quilts and a broad range of fabrics.  Patricia, the owner, recently published her first pattern which combines an appliqued cowboy boot with blue jeans into a nice wall hanging.  It's not on the website but you can see mine if ask nicely.

My hear sung a little when I saw her backing ready bolts of fabric for 50% off and her pillowcase kits for $5.00 each.  I have enough backing fabric for a small quilt factory but the pillowcase kits will be used almost immediately for a project I saw on Facebook.  Country Living Quilts (1816 CR 427, Marquez, TX 77865) is collecting pillowcases for those who have been burned out of their homes due to the huge wild fires around Bastrop, Texas.

 If I am ever near this area again, I will definitely stop in and enjoy all the quilt goodness here.

And that's the other method to my madness.  This shop is WAY off the beaten track for the shop hop.  When I mapped out everything else in that region, all of the other shops are concentrated between Houston and Austin except this one.  Making it to that shop while doing the other shops would be a bit of a pain so doing it by itself made sense to me.  

I also got to enjoy some very pleasant back roads.  I drove up to the shop through a lot of construction on I-45 but came back on a lot of country roads so I could stop and have lunch at Florida's Kitchen in Livingston. Yum, Yum!

I love back roads in any part of the world and today was no exception.  For a while I followed an old boat trailer with a skiff on it.  The trailer had weeds growing on it and the boat lost little bits of itself as we bumped along the road. I wonder what they were going to do with such an unseaworthy vessel after they left the road at a public boat launch?  They may have been thinking about sinking it in the lake, but the drought had made the lakes so shallow that I don't think they would have been successful.

I saw no evidence of wild fires in the area (a good thing!) but I did get to see how low some of the lakes and streams are in this area.  At one point there was an ugly stench coming through the air vents. Before I panicked I realized that the smell came from rotting vegetation exposed by the dropping lake levels.  Glad I don't have a home near there! 

The next part of hop that I will attempt may include an overnight stay somewhere as the distances are pretty significant...especially if I want to loiter at any of the stores.  Kelis will go to Paul and Alex has been offered a place at his foster family's home.  I just have to get the planning done so I can firm up the dates.

If you are in Texas check out some of the stores you have never visited before for a road trip treat.  If you are out of state...see if you can get one going in your state.  Shopping, back roads and unique quilt related stuff will make it all worth the energy to make it happen.