Wednesday, January 4, 2012

happy new year!

My goal for 2012 is to post on the blog more often, and in order to do so I'm going to minimize the "fussiness" of my posts in hopes that I will be able to just post, rather than avoid posting until I have time to do it up "right."  This time never shows up, anyway, oddly enough.

First off, I'm going to highlight two of my Christmas gifts.  I am well loved (or spoiled) and received many more than two, and all of them were awesome and made me very happy, but these are the two that I wanted to share with everyone.

This is Queen Cupernica, a gorgeous handmade bronze and copper dragon that was the final gift to me sent by my Ars Sekrit Santa.  I've taken part in this exchange for five or six years now, and had a great time every year, but this year I was completely blown away by my Santa's efforts.  Not only did he find such a gorgeous dragon to add to my collection, but he put together several different gift packages along with a story explaining her arrival.  My husband was slightly miffed at the amount of effort put forth, as now he had to figure out how to top that!

And the second item is another dragon - this one an Imperial Young Dragon from Windstone.  I've wanted one of this style for years, but they have been out of production since before I started seriously collecting dragons, and the prices on eBay have always been ridiculous.  The company rereleased the design in two new colorways, this gorgeous copper patina as well as an amethyst, and I told my husband about them immediately upon release back in October.  What makes this gift all the more special is that he actually ordered it immediately, a first for him to buy a Christmas gift that far in advance, and even made arrangements so I wouldn't even know it had been purchased until I received it.  So this dragon is more than just another piece in my collection - it is a solid and present symbol of my husband's love for me.  Awww.

Somewhere around December 10th is when I decided that there was no way to finish both of the quilts for my niece and nephew before Christmas, short of taking off work for the last two weeks of the year.  So we moved on and got them some cool toys instead, and the quilts will be their birthday gifts this year.  I've finished about half of the quilting on Averie's quilt, and above is a detail shot showing the quilting in the tower panel at the bottom of the quilt.  I chose to run verticals every third tower, and while they're not all perfectly straight I'm pretty happy with the overall effect.  And as a bonus, the number of towers was evenly divisible by three so I didn't have to do any different-sized intervals.

I've had the first panel of Aidan's quilt set up on the design wall for weeks, and finally pieced it together so that I could (sigh) put it away for a little bit to make a (much smaller) baby quilt for a friend's baby that is due very soon now.  Part of why I hadn't worked on it at all is due to the hassle involved in switching out my main sewing machine from a quilting setup (for Averie's quilt) to a piecing setup (for this one), which I just didn't want to deal with.  I finally bit the bullet and set up my Pfaff 130, and after some fussing with the settings I got a great scant 1/4" seam and was able to put this panel together.  And amazingly, somehow the Pfaff (despite being 60 years old) produced the best patchwork I've made yet - look at how all of the corner points line up in this shot!  And it's that way across the entire panel, I'm just so proud of myself about that!  The final panel size is spot-on as well, so it's not just a consistent seam allowance it's both a consistent and an ACCURATE seam allowance. Wooo!

In December I was enamored of the Sweetwater monthly label crew project, a fabric-covered journal, so I joined the group and also ordered the pattern and the kit.  I picked up a moleskine graph paper notebook to use, and a few days after Christmas I started working on the kit.  My first try didn't turn out as well as I liked, but honestly that's okay as using 2.5" squares made for some pretty patchwork that I didn't really want to cover up with the label.  I did a second version using strips (finally breaking into my prized Northwood metallic batik jelly roll) and a slightly larger size than the pattern called for, and this worked out much better.  This project was also completed on the Pfaff 130.

I did the lining up in border collie fabric, as it makes me so happy every time I see it in my iPad sleeve, and I'm very proud of myself for getting the border collies all facing the same way.  Sadly I scorched the personalized label (the J on the left/top) when ironing it on, so I purposefully scorched my personalized label on the lower right so they would look similar.  The flaps are really a bit too big for this notebook, as I could barely get the notebook inside the cover, so if I make another in the future I will make them a little smaller.  Overall I'm super pleased with the result, and I'm using the notebook to make crafting notes - I hope I will keep it up throughout the year!

The last thing I've made recently is a pillowcase, which I made using a tutorial I found online last night.  It came together very quickly, no more than an hour or so from start to finish, and I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  I made it for a guy friend who is recovering from surgery, and who likes blues, so hopefully this navy and royal blue with gray trim pillowcase will be pleasing!  Again I made this on the Pfaff, and it sewed like a dream - even over the final seam where the trim is, which is 10 layers of cotton fabric!  I was amazed at how easily the machine went right over that with no hiccuping or twisting, and I'm not sure my Janome would have handled it as well.  My learning curve on this item is that I didn't have a quite big enough final seam (which encases the raw ends), so I had some threads from the raw edge sticking out from the outer seam which I had to clip.  I've made note of that and will do it better next time - I was trying to avoid moving my seam guide, and just moving the needle position, but I think to encase it properly I need to do a combination of moving the seam guide and being more careful with my ironing to set it up properly.  At any rate, not bad for my first attempt at enclosed seams and a pillowcase!

I'm pretty proud of my final stats for commuting on my motorcycle in 2011.  Of 221 days that I worked in 2011, I commuted by motorcycle for 211 of them, and the remaining 10 days were all commuted by car/truck due to bad weather (snow, ice, below 25F, or flooding).  That's a percentage of 95.5% of days commuted, or an adjusted percentage of 100% - not bad!  My total mileage for the year was 10,541, with nearly all of that commuting as I did just one or two fun rides over the course of the year.  I am hoping to do more fun rides for the year, especially since my new route to work avoids the SR-520 bridge and as such is a couple of miles shorter, meaning I'll need to do a bit more "fun" riding to make up the difference and continue putting on miles at the rate of 10k per year.

According to my GoodReads account, I read 68 books in 2011.  Since I don't record re-reads or the silly ridiculous fluffy romances that I read, my total is probably closer to 100 since I know I reread about 25 books and read more than 7 romances.  Some of the books that I read last year that made it to my "Favorites" shelf are as follows:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
Memories of the Future by Wil Wheaton
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Twilight's Dawn by Anne Bishop
Of course, I read many more books than just these six, but of the books I read last year only nine made it to my favorites shelf, so I'd say these are my highly-recommended reads of the year.  For 2012 I've set my challenge to 60 books (it was set to 50 for 2011), and I've already read two - oddly enough, both about knitting!

And of course, I can't wrap up this post without at least one of the border collies!  We took Ezri along with the rest of our club's fast team up to Canada for a New Years Eve tournament, and we had a ridiculously good time.  Dinner, flyball racing, champagne and dessert, and bungee racing, all with a big bunch of our friends - what could be better!  I decided to celebrate with sparkles, including sparkly bright green eyeliner for me and jewels for Ezri, as shown in this excellent photo by my friend Deborah.  Just a dab of eyelash glue secures the gems safely, and as long as the dog doesn't shake before the glue dries, it'll stay put until you take it off.  While we put gems on all of our racing dogs, Ezri was the one who sat still and let me put about 15 on her, and she loved every moment of it!

Happy New Year!


K-Koira said...

Wow, you get a lot done. I'm about to start on the first quilt since I made one with my grandma's help when I was 10, as soon as my sewing machine comes back from it's tune up. I'm not sure if I'll do any actual quilting or just do ties for it though. Even though I have a quilting machine (Janome Quilting Companion), I am not all that confident on the actual quilting part.

Alassel said...

Thank you! :)

As for the quilting, just jump in and give it a shot. My first quilt was just straight stitch-in-the-ditch, and there's a lot of wiggling as I learned, but it came out fine and it's warm and pretty. Plus doing it that way means the manipulation of the quilt while on the sewing machine is minimal - just roll it up on both sides around the seam you're going to quilt through, and sew straight down the seam.

I'm still doing just straight-line quilting at this point, I'm just doing it at odd angles and in patterns, there's a lot you can do without ever trying to FMQ. I've done a tiny tiny bit of FMQ but not on a big quilt yet. :)