Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Out of season

Do you ever feel out of sync with the seasons? I'm feeling a little like that at the moment - we keep hearing about the glorious Queensland weather from Mr Q's family as we cosy up in woollen jumpers and thick socks. And then there is the bizarre and unexpected urge to spring clean - in the depths of winter. To empty out drawers and cupboards, sorting and editing the contents. In the last week or so, clothes and books have all been through this process, and the spotlight is now firmly on my crafting space. It's probably apparent from this blog that I am a serial starter (and a quick look in the kitchen cupboard will also show you that Mr Q and I are cereal starters too!). I have a few unfinished knitting projects, but the largest number of works in progress are definitely in the quilting pile.

I am sure that my Christmas break will involve some culling of fabric and craft supplies, but before that happens I am digging through the box of unfinished quilting projects and seeing what I can complete.

So this week, I have been mostly quilting this quilt.

I started piecing this quilt in the summer of 2010, using a jelly roll that I'd purchased a couple of years before. The fabric is A Little Romance from Moda. I wanted to create a simple quilt using just a single jelly roll and some sashing fabric. The top went together quickly, and then I stalled trying to decide how to quilt it. Finally, a border quilting design in Christine Maraccini's Machine Quilting Solutions caught my eye. Getting the quilting to match up at the corners provided a little challenge, but I am very happy with how this turned out. Just the binding to do now. And perhaps a quick write-up of the quilt as a tutorial?

So what else is in the finishing pile?

To be quilted...
  1. A colourwash Irish chain that I started in 2000
  2. A traditional red and white "Double X" quilt that I started as a wedding quilt in 2006, before Mr Q told me he's not that keen on red and white!
  3. A French Braid quilt that I'm making as a raffle quilt in aid of Friends of Gawthorpe - hopefully I'll show you that finished next week
  4. Two Harmonic Convergence quilts made from Ricky Tims' book

Tops to be completed...
  1. The daisy quilt I showed you in an earlier post
  2. A Strips and Curves quilt from Louisa Smith's book
  3. Some curved pieced leaves that I designed years ago and have never put together in a quilt
  4. A fossil quilt that I started in a class with Anja Townrow
  5. A Single Girl quilt from a pattern by Denise Schmidt
  6. A table runner that I started in a class last summer
And my thought for the day? Finishing is fun - even though you sometimes you have to admit defeat and let sleeping cats lie.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sock it to 'em

Earlier this week I attended a workshop with my mum at Alston Hall, near Preston. The workshop was run by Fiona Morris, and we learnt how to knit a sock from the toe up. For the non-sock-savvy amongst you (and I was among your number until the workshop), knitting socks from the toe up is an INNOVATION. Always a fan of innovation, I really enjoyed learning how to (i) do a Turkish cast on, (ii) knit on two circular needles simultaneously, and (iii) shape wrapped short row heels. As I am a slow knitter, I decided to make a teeny tiny sock so that I could attempt all these new skills under the watchful eye of the tutor. 

sock in progress - on TWO circular needles

the finished sock - too small for human foot
I will definitely try knitting socks again and have been trawling ravelry for an appropriate pattern. Oh, and did I mention that I love this yarn?

On Sunday, Mr Q and I rode our bikes to Cedar Farm. In an attempt to avoid having to cycle around a big motorway junction, we took to the back routes - country roads and muddy bike paths in equal measure. My plan had been to bring you pictures of the English countryside in Autumn - all mists and mellow fruitfulness as the poem has it. Sadly we couldn't really see beyond the mist! After about 12 miles of cycling we reached Cedar Farm, and treated ourselves...

the reward!

Mr Q enjoying his muffin
Anxious that the weather was really drawing in, we didn't spend much time looking around. We nipped into the little deli to buy chorizo for our dinnertime paella, but had to miss the vintage fair that was going on :-( We took a more direct route home, past a local beauty spot where on a clear day you can see all the way to Blackpool. No views today, but at least the ice cream van was still open for business!

a local viewpoint - yes, those are fog lights!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Lazy daisy

For a while now I've been thinking of linking up with Work in Progress Wednesdays at Freshly Pieced. But every time that Wednesday rolls around I find that I don't have anything photographed or blogged, or anything in progress that I'm feeling enthusiastic about. This week, however, is different. I spent Saturday with the quilting group that both my mum and I belong to and was able to get some uninterrupted sewing time, without the distractions of Mr Q :-) and the never ending cleaning and DIY of the renovation project we call home. And without the helpful intervention of my two cats.

So how did I spend this valuable time? Well, I designed the daisy petals for this little quilt, and started cutting out the white fabrics. I am so happy with how this is coming together. When it is complete, it will be a gift for a friend who has just had her first baby. Everyone I have shown it to so far, assumes that my friend's new daughter is called Daisy. She isn't. Design inspiration struck when I remembered my friend's wedding stationery - pretty pale green paper with small, scattered daisies. I hope they'll love it as much as I do.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Fossils on my mind

subtle textured trilobite on a hat
You may know that I am a palaeontologist. My day job involves studying fossils, and teaching undergraduate students about them. As well as teaching, I also do palaeontological research, with my chosen specialised subject (to coin a phrase from Mastermind) being fossil sea urchins. I am particularly interested in mass extinctions - times when many different organisms all went extinct within a short space of time. The most recent of these events was at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs (and lots of other creatures) came to a sticky end. However, the biggest ever mass extinction occurred at the end of the Permian period, about 250 million years ago when over 95% of all species alive at the time died out. One of the groups that bit the dust back then were the trilobites - marine creatures distantly related to crabs and lobsters that had more than a passing resemblance to woodlice. I am a big fan of trilobites - they come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Some are ridiculously spiny, others totally smooth. Some had eyes on stalks, other had no eyes and were completely blind. It all sounds a little like science fiction, doesn't it?

For a long time, I've thought about mixing science and craft. I have designed several craft projects that link the two parts of my life, but I always seem to put them off, worried that I don't have the time or skill to do my vision justice. Maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning now. A couple of months ago, I came across Hannah Ingall's trilobite hat on Knitty, and decided to knit it for myself. With all the tricky design work done for me, I could concentrate on learning how to knit bobbles, and how to simultaneously manipulate circular needles and cable needles. I cast on a couple of weekends ago, and on Saturday night after my weekly fix of Strictly Come Dancing, I cast off and sewed in the ends. I have been wearing my trilobite hat pretty much non-stop since then.
Trilobites on my mind. Well, on my head!
Except when Mr Q has stolen it.
Mr Q in the stolen trilobite hat
For those who like to know all the details, the yarn is Debbie Bliss Luxury Donegal Tweed Aran in a charcoal colour way (15) knitted on a 4mm circular needle. My reasons for choosing this yarn were several...
1. It's soft, cosy and rustic looking.
2. I lead field classes in Donegal looking at rocks of trilobite-bearing age.
3. The colour is similar to the rocks that many trilobites are found in.
4. The tweedy colours, and angora texture mean that the trilobite is quite subtle, disguising any mistakes, and preventing my students from immediately thinking that I am a total geek. They'll have to be quite observant before they are able to think that!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Grey days

We have had some beautiful crisp autumn days over the last few weeks. But there have also been some very grey days too, reminding me that winter is well on its way. This is the perfect time of year for knitting, and I seem to have been inspired by the grey skies in my choice of yarns.

First off the needles is this cowl for my sister. She is a fan of all things ultralight, and I thought I would make her a warm but featherweight item. The yarn is Debbie Bliss' Angel, and the pattern is Abby by Amy Singer on Knitty. The whole cowl weighs less than an once but it packs a very cosy punch. This was my second lace project, and my second time working with circular needles. I hope Kath likes it.

Now that the circular needle is free, I have cast on the Trilobite hat by Hannah Ingalls, also on Knitty. This hat is for me - the perfect field attire for a palaeontologist. I have completed the cephalon and am now working my way along the thorax. I took a photo of Mr Q modelling the half-finished hat, but he has pleaded with me not to show it. You'll just have to wait to see the completed hat in a few days time.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Autumn days

Last weekend Mr Q and I ventured south to Gloucestershire, the county of my birth. It seemed appropriate as it was the closest weekend to my birthday. As a kid, one of my greatest birthday treats was a walk through the glorious autumn colours at the Westonbirt Arboretum followed by lunch at a nearby hotel. I thought that after 20 years away, I might be allowed to relive my childhood memories. I was worried that it might not be as spectacular as I remember, but in fact it was better. The colours of the leaves were truly breathtaking...