Midwest Road Trip

Last week, Peter and I were on a road trip. It was wonderful to be away – we have had one of those Summers when everything has been going wrong. Since his retirement, it seems like Peter has done nothing but repair things and read online guides and talk to repairmen, when he can’t fix something. Some months ago I signed up for the Midwestern Handi Quilter Event in Highland, Illinois, and when I asked if he would like to come along, I got a resounding “yes!”.

Our first stop was in Franklin Tennessee, which was #2 on my Where To Live Next List. It is a charming town set in lovely, rolling countryside, not far from Nashville. The horse farms and large estates (I looked at a house across the street from Reba McEntire’s farm!) are breath-taking. We had some yummy meals downtown and Peter toured the area on his bike while I window shopped. Next trip we will explore Nashville.

Handi Quilter makes my Sweet 16 quilting machine and I thought I’d like to go and see what I could learn about the machine and how to get better at free motion quilting.The Handi Quilter Event was sponsored by Mike’s Machine Shop and they did a nice job, and Mike is so knowledgeable about the machines. The classes were held in this Masonic Temple in Highland…..it’s quite a beauty!

The Event was 5 days long, but only the first two were relevant to me. I have a Sweet 16, which is called a “sit down, mid arm machine”. I do not use the HQ version of a stitch regulator, nor do I use a computer. She’s a plain vanilla machine and I’m delighted with her. Over the years I have taken machine quilting classes from “big deal quilters”. They show you how to do their quilting; the way they like to do it. Mary Beth Kraptil gave an overview, with many, many ideas for designs and how to accomplish them. After going over the basics of the machine and how to get the quilting started, she talked about a variety of quilt patterns, including “ruler work” and there was even a bit of time to try out her ideas and play with the rulers. And the mantra always is, no matter who teaches the classes, practise for 15 minutes every day!  She had samples galore, which are so helpful to see up close.

This idea for a practise piece was one of my favorites. She started with a printed fabric in the middle and then “finished” the motifs that were cut off. You can see that she added more floral and leaf shapes in the background and then fill, fill, filled!

Highland is about 45 minutes from St. Louis, so we decided to go to a Beer Week Event at the Anheuser Busch Biergarten. As you can see, it was a lovely evening… and check out the arch appearing in the distance!

It is so incredible!

The trip home was not as fun as the getting-there – isn’t that often the case? We were listening to a book on tape and I was secretly tracing quilting designs on my leg. I have so many ideas and some new tools and toys to play with!

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Chalk Paint Chairs

After moving to South Carolina, our brown upholstered dining room chairs seemed heavy and out-of-place. Though I wanted to re-upholster them, the cost of the fabric and labor was way too high and they weren’t particularly special chairs. There is a chalk paint store in the area, and after I took an introductory class with them, I decided to paint unfinished chairs. The instructor told us about an Amish furniture store which was full of choices for straight-backed chairs. After spending a good amount of time dithering about which chairs to buy, I decided on six different styles! Somewhere I had seen an old farmhouse kitchen where mismatched chairs sat around a big table. Though there are many antique stores nearby, new chairs seemed a better option. This was all about a year ago and the unfinished chairs with cloth seats, sat in the diningroom looking forlorn.

Sometimes I make quick decisions about fabrics and colors, but not this time. Finally I found an ikat fabric that I liked – with watery, soft colors.

And then the paint color debate started in my head. For a long while I thought I would be clever and paint each chair a different color and collected paint samples. I came to my senses a few weeks ago and decided that one color would suffice. I went back to the chalk paint store which sells Annie Sloan’s brand. They have a large selection of colors, but nothing appealed to me. I didn’t feel like mixing their paint either, so I started to Google. It turns out that chalk paint is very easy to make and Lowe‘s had a recipe and all sorts of good information. It’s Plaster of Paris and water and plain paint and that meant that I could simply choose a color I liked and make it myself. (And it was lots less expensive.)Why chalk paint? It is very thick and goes on easily. There are far fewer drips and these are easy to spot. Years ago when I painted furniture for our apartment, I could not find a finish that I liked; it was always too shiny and then when I sanded it, it looked – well – sanded. Chalk paint has a dull finish and then when the finishing wax is applied, it can be rubbed to make it shine a bit. There are all sorts of amazing techniques one can do, but I just did plain painting. And I’m very pleased with the result.

Next I am debating painting a red leather recliner…. Have any of you tried chalk painting on leather?

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Hemming Handwovens…

I recently spent an amazing week attending the Basics Class at Vavstuga Weaving School. In the class, we learned so much about looms, fibers, drafting, project planning and we completed four projects. And now I’m hemming them. This is the hand towel I wove.The warp is cottolin and the weft is linen.

Everything at Vavstuga is handwoven and here are the hand towels that were in the bathroom all week for our use.

Everything! Meals were served in the lovely diningroom with this (rainy) view of the Deerfield River…

… and at each meal, different cloths were spread down the middle of the table. Every day we had different woven napkins to use too!

This is the small tablecloth I wove with cotton and cottolin. One thing I was anxious to learn about was how to use a temple. What is a temple? The wooden bar along the front of the weaving area is one and it is used to get nice straight selvedges. I have hemmed it and it’s waiting to be washed.

Here are some of the fibers and colors that we were able to use for our linens….it is a color lover’s paradise.

The third project was a throw made of wool warp and weft. It was fringed on the last morning and here it is waiting to be washed and fulled. Many, many years ago I wove with wool a lot but now that we live in the South, it doesn’t appeal. Too hot; too fuzzy!

This is the other colorway for the throw. Cutting off the pieces is Becky Ashenden, the owner and founder of Vavstuga Weaving Studio. In all my years of taking weaving classes, I have never met anyone like her. She has been weaving her whole life and has endless samples and knowledge to share. No question went unanswered and each mistake was met with “Oh good – let me show you how easy it is to fix this!”.

Here is what we referred to as “the block weave”. The warp is natural linen which is such a dark beige color, so I chose magenta linen to brighten it up. It was so enjoyable weaving the blocks in a damask pattern.

Here it is hemmed and ready to use. (The colors above are more like the original.)

On Friday morning we had our class photo taken with all the projects cut off the looms and ready to go home with us. It was a great group and it’s always so good to be with “your own kind”! Becky is on the right and not in the picture are the rest of the Vavstuga gang – Kim, creator of delicious meals, Bettie, the office manager and someone I so enjoyed talking with, and Tonya, former apprentice and jack of all trades in the store and studio.

I could go on and on about all the we did and learned and shared, but you get the idea. For more about this amazing experience, please check out this post by Kerry of Lovethosehandsathome.  She made me want to find out more about Vavstuga and the wonderful Becky. And I encourage you to do the same!

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Orphan Block Quilt – – – Finally Finished

I certainly do not win awards for finishing projects in a timely fashion! After starting to quilt The Orphan Block Mash Up quilt, I quickly lost interest and it sat under my Sweet Sixteen machine for months. Languishing… it was started over a year ago. Fast forward to the present : I have a growing stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, so I have spent the last two weeks getting it done.

I am not thrilled with it. My quilting is not great so I will not be showing you a close-up. But as I have told students in the past, you can quilt samples or practise on “the real thing” and I chose to do the latter. Most people viewing the quilt in my hallway are not quilters, so they will not scrutinize my work. And if I can keep my tongue in my head and not say “Gee, the quilting is not very good”, I am sure they will admire it. (Sorry for the poor photo – I have no walls big enough to hang a quilt and get away from it to photograph, so it was on the floor and I was on a ladder!)

I must say that I am always amazed when I wash a quilt. It looks so much better and you really have to look closely to see the quilting at all; there’s just a nice texture.

Now that it is done, I can get on with the next project and learn some more.

A Dyed Garment – Ripped From the Catalogs!

I have been doing some dyeing, over the last few days and having lots of fun. Many of the projects I worked on did not come out as I had hoped, but this knit top “ripped from a catalog” is a winner. I had some ideas about what to do with a knit top I bought from Dharma Trading Company, but when I flipped through a catalog the other night, I found the perfect (and perfectly simple) design. I’ve been working on some examples of shibori and tie dye for the neighborhood ladies’ craft group. Tie dyeing is loads of fun, but perhaps not so wearable for us older ladies… Shibori techniques, on the other hand, can be quite elegant and examples of them are in all sorts of stores. This pattern is so easy; it’s the classic spiderweb (perhaps called kumo in Japanese?) and I always enjoy it. Here it is all tied up.

And here is the front….

And a side view…

And the back.

The color couldn’t have been simpler! It’s PRO Chem MX Fuchsia 308. I dribbled it into the pan until I liked the tint and submerged the t-shirt. The fact that it looks so nice on my mannequin means it won’t fit me now (she’s a size 10) but it’s a good Summer goal for me. ;-D

 

 

A Kitchen for a Quilter*

Last post, I shared one side of the unfinished kitchen. Now I can share the almost completely finished kitchen and complain a bit more about the old one.

What really drove us mad about cooking side of the kitchen was the glass cooker top! Hate, hate, hated it! Discovering that we could get a gas line installed to the house started this whole project. Once Peter got the permits done, we bought a new gas cook top, and a new wall microwave/convection oven and oven. As you can see, the old appliances were black. Ugh. I’m not a clean freak, but I do like white or stainless in the kitchen. It looks sleek and clean. My other huge problem was the microwave oven and exhaust fan over the cooker top. The fan did little but wush the air somewhere and the oven was so low that I was nervous when I used the enormous canning pot. And the microwave was so old that it did not have a plate to rotate the food.

So pleased to see them gone! We do not have space for an exhaust fan to pull the air up, so we chose a downdraft unit to pull the air into the crawl space. There were some challenges getting it in, including making the drawers under the cooktop a lot shallower, but it is worth it. Gas is so wonderful to cook on and so hot – I had forgotten and nearly burned dinner the other night.

Another little detail that always aggravates me in a kitchen, is the lack of shelves. I know some people who own a handful of cookbooks but I am not one of them! I have cookbooks all over the house. (And check out this kitchen view with the dark brown glass tiles and the ugly off white Corian counters. Ugh!)

My idea was to build a bookcase at the end of the island. The kitchen designer suggested glueing one of the cabinet doors shut and inserting a black set of shelves that would coordinate with the black molding on the cabinets. Though we lost a lot more cabinet space, I am delighted with the new bookcase. (Which houses my most used cookbooks…)

And here is a “beauty shot” of the sink and the new glass inserts in what was the “black hole” cupboard. And how about my apple core backsplash? Is it not wonderful?

The whole project took three weeks. It seemed like forever but when we admire our sparkling update, we feel like we have a brand new kitchen.