Friday, October 24, 2014

October is always a busy month for our family, with three birthdays to celebrate, but this year there were friends visiting and family staying, and extra work hours at the Post Office, so the last few weeks have just gone by in a blur. 

Dolly enjoyed spending time with our friends Kathy and Paul, who came for coffee one morning.  They are touring here in SA, on a visit from Western Australia.  They treated her the way she thinks she ought to be treated, non-stop attention and cuddles. 

 What a life.What a spoilt puppy.

We've also had our first 39° day for the season, and there's plenty more to come; the heat is so disgusting, there's not much you can do except sit in front of a fan and wait for evening.  The dogs are pathetic, panting nonstop and laying like frogs on any cool floor they can find.  Welcome to another summer.

I haven't sewn a single stitch in the last week, which makes me grumpy and frazzled.  It's Saturday today, and after my garden duties I am going to get my batik half-hexagons in one piece. 

I'm sick of the sight of them on the design wall, they were meant to be a quickie project and they're lingering way past their time.  The gap in the middle is caused by the two rows on my machine, abandoned when work commitments took over.

I maayy have bought a heap of batiks online, but it was a birthday present to myself, and in the process of making my first batik quilt the inadequacy of my stash became apparent very quickly.
 So I'd better start collecting them more seriously, if I ever want to be able to make something without tearing my hair out. 

The effect of this purchase (13 metres) on my Stash numbers was dramatic, it added more than 10% in one go!  This year I have bought 120.4 metres, used 156.15 metres, for a net total of 35.75 metres used.  I'm pretty sure I've accounted for all the purchases, but there are finished projects that I didn't take into account.  It seems silly to count fabric that I used 25 years ago. 

I need to get busy making backings for the tops I finished recently, that will help the spreadsheet look more respectable.  And I think I need to cull some older fabrics from the stash, my tastes are changing and there are pieces that I don't think I'll ever use.  If I'm going to build a batik stash, I'd better make room for it now, or I'll be stacking it on the floor.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Alas, I've finished all the easy UFOs, the ones that are left need difficult decisions about borders, or are only a single block and a pile of cut out pieces.  From now on it's going to be a lot of work to get things finished.  I did the only sensible thing and started something new.

I've been threatening to start a batik quilt for ages, but couldn't choose a pattern. 
The last time we visited a patchwork shop I picked up this set of Westalee rulers, specially designed for jellyrolls. (Here's a link, you will have to scroll down to find the half hexagon rulers.)  I figured there wouldn't be any tough decisions to make with this shape, I love hexagons and half hexagons, and the cutting would be a breeze.
Luckily I was right, and it took only a few sessions to cut up a whole jellyroll of batiks;  it's taking a little longer to get them all arranged on the wall.  There aren't as many light value shapes as I would like; I NEED more batiks, I just don't have a big enough stash.  I found some hand-dyes that will fit in, and I'm sure I can rustle up a few more fabrics from my tiny modern stash, but I really think I need to go back to Charlene's at Jamestown.  I'm going to sew the shapes into rows, and then wait till I've been shopping before I sew the whole thing together. 
I counted my red nine-patches, and I have 41, roughly one quarter of what I need.  These are a wonderful leader-ender, easy to cut and put together, and boring enough that I'm not tempted to sew them on their own.
On my travels I also picked up this charm pack of Blackbird's Autumn Lily range.  What a sweet little pack, I intend to play with this and decide what fabrics I'd like actual yardage of.   I'm sick of trying to track down fabrics 3 or 4 years after their release date, so it's a wise thing to buy a few lengths of good border or background designs when they are actually available.

Next post I might share my stats on how much I've used and purchased this year; not a great effort for stashbusting, as I've been concentrating on the UFOs, but I have a huge stack of tops that need backings and that will help the numbers.


Thanks for all the suggestions for naming my block; I've decided to call it Homestead Star.  The house shapes are like the simple settler cottages dotted over our landscapes, many with a windmill close by, and the weathervane reference makes me think of our Southern Cross windmills.  And that reminds me of the Southern Cross in our night skies; so there you go, block and quilt named.
It's a long weekend here, and I spent yesterday working in the garden and stayed up sewing till 2am.  I really wanted the borders on the Basket quilt and the Homestead Star finished, so I just kept going until they were done.

(Why is this picture sideways?  It's the right way up in the editing software.... )

The Homestead Star borders took ages, there are 16 strips to sew into sets of four, and then I had to attach them and mitre the corners. 
I like the end result, and that paisley was just right for the borders, I'm glad I decided to use it.
The little triangles around the basket quilt were tedious and I didn't enjoy making them fit, but I think they look pretty marvelous.  It was worth the fuss and bother, but I'm very, very glad to see it finished.

I spent today babysitting great-niece Isobel, so I didn't get any work or sewing or gardening done;  it's 9pm and I'm about to get a cup of coffee and consult the UFO list, so I can choose another project to complete.  Only 19 left......

Our trip to Broughton on Thursday was wonderful; all the dogs enjoyed themselves on the beach, it was very exciting as the sun went down and the tide came in.  It's lovely to see them all interacting with each other and getting on so well.  Dogs need a lot of doggy friends for a well-balanced life.
The sunset was spectacular, as was an enormous pile of fish and chips that the 8 of us demolished happily.
The only flaw in the outing was how cold it was, the day had been so hot that we forgot to take jackets with us.  We won't make that mistake again.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I can't find my block in Blockbase, so I guess I'll have to give it a name.  The closest is Weathervane,

(I nicked this photo from here if anyone is interested in Ruby Short McKim designs, there's 25 of them...)

but mine has the nine-patch in the centre, surrounded by a half inch border.  I'm trying to think of something clever and appropriate to call it, but I'm not feeling particularly clever right now.  It might have to be the red/blue/brown quilt for a while yet.
The paisley fabric won, I decided it was prefectly acceptable and that I really can't afford the time to go to the patchwork shop.  I tracked down some aqua fabric from the Park Avenue range, even had it in the shopping cart and was about to press the button, when I came to my senses.  It wasn't the fabric I loved, I would have to wait weeks for it, and I could be sewing on borders within minutes if I just went with the paisley.  So I did.

I don't think I like being sensible, it's no fun, but it's a lot more convenient at times.

There's so much to do in the garden, and it's the school holidays; that means we try and spend more time with schoolteacher John and his family.  The travelling in and out adds at least an hour to every visit, it's a nice drive but not when we're budgeting our time, trying to get everything done before the hot weather.  Spring is a busy time for us gardeners.

Today we're going in for a visit, then driving to Port Broughton with some other people for a walk on the beach ( 5 dogs) and then fish and chips all round.  The lady at the cafe has been giving us buttered bread for the dogs lately, that's sweet and they appreciate it.  They're as ravenous as the seagulls after a romp on the beach.  So are we.

Back later, hopefully with progress photos on those borders....


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The wind is disgusting today, tearing through the trees, banging fences and roofs, pulling at the newly planted seedlings in the garden.  As I was walking through the yard, collecting anything likely to blow away, the wheelie bin came bowling along and tumbled into the rose bed.  I had to extricate it while the wind slapped maliciously at me and leaves and branches whirled past my head.  Not a day to spend outside, methinks.

Yesterday I did a fair bit of sewing, watching Seinfeld episodes right from the beginning;  the actors were so young they look like teenagers.  I know it all so well, I can sew madly and just look up at the bits I really love.

I have 2 more blocks left to assemble, and then I will have 20.
 I am debating with myself over the border fabric.  I have 5 metres of paisley that my sensible self says would be fine; my silly self wants to go to the quilt shop at Jamestown and buy 2 metres of a new blue, that I have only a FQ of.  If I use the paisley, it could be finished tonight.  If I drive to the quilt shop, I won't get the top in one piece before Wednesday at least.  We're still arguing about it.

I just did a tutorial on the house shapes I'm using, but I've left it as a separate post, so I can link back to it if I need to refer someone to it. 


I love cutting these house shapes in one piece.

 The 'quick & easy' way is to piece it out of 2.5" rectangles and squares, or squares and HSTs, but I really love that shape without a centre seam.
(I had to do it with this fabric, only had a jellyroll strip of it, but I wouldn't do it from choice.)  I find it's a lot more accurate without extra seams, easier to press, less bulky to assemble, and cutting it in one piece is about as quick as it gets.

Of course, there's the method of using 4.5"squares, and adding 2.5"squares to both top corners with the flippy method.

This is super easy, and quick, apart from the drawing of lines and the trimming etc. Much better than a seam up the centre, but I don't get enough accuracy for my liking.  Some people hate triangles, so they love this method; personally, I love the triangles.

I prefer to cut the house shape with my Easy Angle ruler, either the 6" or the 4" one, because they are always on the cutting table anyway.  The numbers aren't relevant for this sort of cutting, so to find the line I want, I use a strip that is the size of that corner triangle; 2.5" triangle, so a 2.5"strip.
 I stick a post-it note to the back of the ruler, close to the line but not too close.  I don't want to obscure that line, just highlight it.
Then I trim off the bits of paper that show around the edge, so they don't get in the way.

I start with a 4.5"square, and trim off the top corners to make my house shape.  I'll cut the one on the right, then flip the squares over to cut the other side.  I can flip the ruler, but then the markings are on the top of the ruler, and that drives me nuts because it's not accurate; I ALWAYS cut with the markings on the bottom, right next to the fabric, not floating an eighth of an inch above it.

There are other rulers that you can use to cut this shape; an oldie but a goodie is by Trudie Hughes;
the Rotary Mate has these Speedy shapes along the edge, and they are for trimming off corners, very useful for making house shapes, or octagons.  The ruler is so easy to use; if you have this in the cupboard it's really worth dusting it off.
The marked sizes are finished sizes; my 2.5"triangles finish to 2", so that's the size speedy I use.

Then there's this ruler, from Creative Grids.  It works fine too, but it's more expensive than the other two rulers.
I don't understand the markings on this one, and rather than work it out, I'll just use it the way I want to.  I know my piece is coming from a 4.5" square, so I just line up the top and make sure the ruler is centred and away I go.  I cut all the lozenges for my Elongated Hexagon with this ruler.  (This is the same quilt that Bonnie is doing as a Leader Ender;  my measurements are here.)

Of course, once I have my house shape, I need 2.5"triangles to add to the corners.  I cut mine with the Go Cutter, but if you don't have one,  cut them with the Easy Angle.  (Not from jellyrolls, those pinked edges drive me insane.)

If you want to get rid of the dogears, stack the triangles and put the 2.5" line of the ruler against the edge, then nip off the dogears.

I add the right-hand triangle first, lining up the flat tips with the top of the house shape and the side, and pressing the seam towards the triangle.

Then add the left triangle, lining up the flat tips with the triangle that's just been attached, and the side.

The finished unit should measure 4.5" square,
and the point of the house should be right at the junction of the quarter inch line and the 2.25" line.
I might have to trim a skerrick of the triangles away sometimes, my piecing is never completely accurate, but I'm getting pretty good at it.

If you want to make other sizes, it's easy to figure out.  The triangles will measure half the square; for a 3" finished house block you would need 1.5" triangles; the cut sizes would be 3.5" squares and 2" strips for the Easy Angle.  For a 6" house unit,  6.5" squares and 3.5"strips, and so on.

I might just go through Blockbase and see what patterns I can find with this shape;  I'm not sick of making them yet, and it's a nice shape to use charm squares.  Heaven knows I have enough of those hanging around.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Now that I've got a few days to myself, before the next lot of work is due, I'm clearing out drawers and organising the remaining UFOs.  I pulled out a drawer containing some jellyroll strips, and found another project that never even made it to the UFO list.  It was a set of blocks made from Park Avenue pre-cuts, first blogged about in this post.

 At least I know exactly how old it is, it's very useful to be able to date things through the blog.  Anyway, I decided three and a half years was enough time to 'age' in the cupboard, so I started making more of  them.

It's quite a complicated block to put together, but once it's broken down into units it's a lot more manageable. 

The 5-sided 'house' units are one of my favourite shapes, and I cut them from 4.5" squares, nipping off the corners with the Easy Angle.  I'll do a little tutorial on them tomorrow, there are a few ways to cut them.  I know I can make them with 2.5" strips, but I hate that seam up the middle.

The nine-patches in the middle are easy, just a little bit fiddly with the half inch border;

the corner units are simple piecing, and I cut the HSTs with the Go Cutter so it's even easier. 

I'm aiming for 16 or 20 blocks, and I have 4 finished,

8 kitted

and 4 more mostly cut out;

 it's a good project to use up those 30 minute segments before I go to work in the morning.  I try to make all the units at once, rather than whole blocks, it suits my short sewing sessions.
I can just send all the HSTs through without thinking, perfect for early morning sewing when I might not be really alert.  Then the next morning I sew up the corner units.  I like accumulating all the pieced units, and once they're done, the blocks go together so quickly it's like magic.  I'm looking forward to that moment with this project, hopefully before the end of the week.  I get to add the project to the UFO list, and cross it off in the same week!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's Friday again, and the week just flew by.  I've been really busy with computer work, quilting customer quilts and the of course the postie job.  There aren't enough hours in the day for everything that has to be done.  At least I never have to say "I'm bored, there's nothing to do...."

The customer quilts are really pretty, but they are for a local show so I won't show pictures of them yet.  The computer work is so close to being finished, which is good; the postie run is done and dusted till next Monday, so I plan to get some sewing done this weekend.

My little bits of sewing time before I went to work have paid off in a finished top at last.  My Workaday quilt is in one piece, and looking nicer than I thought it would. 

It's been on the design wall for weeks, and to begin with I shuddered at how ugly some of the fabrics are, and thought I could never get them to live together in harmony.  Then as I worked on it I started feeling affection for it's ugliness, and remembering the quilts the fabrics came from.  Later again I looked at the blocks and remembered all the stuff that has happened since I first started making them, and finally I realised that I loved how precisely I'd pieced together these random, ugly things that weren't of my own choosing.  I could have thrown it together and called it done, but what would the point of that be?  The real value of this quilt is the care I took with it, determined to do the best I could with what had been given to me; and that is a recipe for life as well.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

We had a bit of a scare with the dogs last weekend.  They both went off their food, and that was a worry. There's nothing sadder than a Staffy who doesn't want to eat.  Dolly is fussy, but she always shows up for dinner, or the crackle of a packet.  Pippi's motto is "Eat it quick, decide if it was nice afterwards".  Instead of barging about in the centre of everything they were hiding in corners and staying in bed; not the way they normally behave.

They went to the vet on Monday, and he said it was either a mild case of Parvo, or a really bad E.Coli infection.  They got cortisol and antibiotic injections, and tablets to take for the next 5 days; Dolly was much worse than Pippi, so she got a bottle of white stuff that would help settle her insides.  The first time I gave it to her, her eyes went completely round with shock, and she coughed it back all over me; it was such a strong peppermint flavour, she'd never tasted anything like it! 

I'm glad I completely trust her, especially when I'm putting antibiotic tablets down the back of her throat and all those teeth are around my hand.  She quickly realised that after the tablet she got a treat; when I picked up the bottle she came running to sit between my feet, then danced around in circles after it went down the hatch.  She's a funny little thing, and it's so good to see her back in high spirits.

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