Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Somewhere over the rainbow

Before my new sewing machine appeared on the scene, I started putting this quilt top together. I really like chevron quilts, but wanted the look without the triangles, so drafted a simple pattern that used rectangles set on point instead. Simples. I also sized the blocks to efficiently use strips cut the width of the fabric. No waste. 
how simple are these blocks?
All the fabric in the rainbow array came from the remnant bins at Abakhan in Liverpool. It is possible that I stalk that place - spending (too) many lunch hours delving through their fabrics by the kilo to find the hidden treasures. I used 1/4 metre cuts of each colour along with 2 metres of background - that's a whole quilt top for around £20!

As usual, Mr George was VERY helpful in assisting with block arrangement. I don't know how I would manage without him.

I stitched the blocks using my Lily sewing machine in its last act before trade-in. The rows were sewn on my 25 year old machine, and I finally sewed the whole quilt top together on my brand spanking new, super-dooper machine. Three machines to make one quilt top - thank goodness for 1/4 inch presser foot which made the seam allowances just right on all three.

 That's another top to add to the growing pile that I need to quilt.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Out with the old. In with the new.

Last Saturday morning as I lay in bed planning my weekend, I realised that I wanted to buy a new sewing machine. It was not an idea that I'd been mulling over for a while. Instead the thought popped fully formed into my head. I was surprised. I've been very happy with my two machines - a Husqvarna Viking 190 that my parents gave me as an 18th birthday present, and a Husqvarna Viking Lily, that I'd bought in 2000 when I returned to the UK having lived in Oregon for three years. That was a kind of coming home present. This time, I have no such excuse.

I spent much of Sunday afternoon researching suitable machines and measuring up to check that whatever I picked would fit comfortably in my sewing machine cabinet. On Monday, I took the afternoon off work and headed up to Hobkirks in Blackburn with my trusty Lily in the boot of the car. A couple of hours of sewing machine test driving later, I'd traded in the Lily and bought a Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 875Q.

The machine was delivered on Tuesday afternoon, but I had to wait until I'd finished working before I could get inside the interesting looking box.

Bonnie waited patiently...

Still waiting...

Finally, I finished work, and was able to set up my amazing new machine. The biggest differences are the huge amount of space to the right of the needle which will make it much easier to deal with quilts and other bulky items like curtains, and the fact that it has no presser foot lever which is taking a  bit of getting used to.

first seam on the new machine

It also has more fancy stitches than you can shake a stick at. Some of them will be really useful - several buttonholes for different fabrics; a range of stitches that will be great for crazy quilting, and three alphabets that will be fantastic for creating quilt labels.

first bit of fancy sewing

One of the advantages of buying a Husqvarna Viking machine is that the specialist presser feet that I have collected over the years will fit this machine too. So, the next thing I tried was attaching the darning foot, dropping the feed dogs, and seeing how the automatic tension adjustment would cope with a little free motion quilting. I've got to tell you, I was impressed. The tension was perfect top and bottom.

I'm really looking forward to exploring everything this little beauty can do.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Tweedy granite and granite-y tweed

Donegal is well known for its tweed fabrics and yarns. And if you are a geologist, it is also famous for its granite. Every year I spend two weeks in Donegal, in the northwest of Ireland, teaching undergraduate students geological field techniques. Although very intensive and tiring, I love this class. It falls at the end of their second year, just before they head out on their own to complete 35 days of fieldwork that they write up as a dissertation. The best thing? Seeing a group of people turn from students to geologists before my eyes - it never gets old. Add to that, the fascinating geology, the beautiful scenery... it really is a great way to spend two weeks.

Dolmen near Ardara

some students studying the Ardara granite

For the last couple of years, I've managed to wangle myself a couple of hours off duty during the field class, and have spent the time happily browsing (and spending cash) at either the Donegal Craft Village  in Donegal Town or the Crafter's Basket in Cliffoney, County Sligo.

On my last trip, I spotted this beautiful Donegal Aran Tweed yarn in a shade reminiscent of the Ardara granite, which we get the students to study in some depth. I bought enough to knit a cardigan, although I didn't have an exact pattern in mind.

Donegal Aran Tweed - granite coloured!

After some time perusing Ravelry over Christmas, I noticed that a number of knitters were using their Donegal Aran Tweed to make a short-sleeve, cabled cardigan. I loved it. And the best bit? The name of the pattern - Ardara! Serendipity, or what?

Serendipity - the Ardara pattern with the Ardara granite coloured yarn

I cast on a couple of weeks ago. The cardi is knit in a single piece which means that there are A LOT of stitches making up each row. Even so, I have use up three and a half balls of yarn so far, that's more than a fifth of the cardigan knitted. I'm trying to knit a ball a week, which means that this little beauty should be ready to wear some time in the summer (but probably not before my next trip to its namesake in June).